King Harvest

Bob Dylan and The Band touring in Chicago, 197...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s TunesDay and I have The Band on my mind.

I’ve been a fan since “Big Pink” came out way back in 1968. I was surprised back then to find out that this quintessentially American band was, in fact, mostly Canadian (everyone but Levon Helm). While The Band originated playing behind Ronnie Hawkins, they made their reputation playing behind Bob Dylan as his “electric” band.  The list of great music they’ve written and played is lengthy and their portraits of American life (particularly Southern life) are phenomenal.  I was going to write about “Life Is A Carnival” today (an upbeat song with which to begin the year!) but another tune seems more appropriate to a business blog.

“King Harvest” is one of The Band’s finest and most interesting songs.  The video below was filmed as they recorded the song in 1970:

There is also an outstanding version of this recorded by Bruce Hornsby I urge you to seek out.  Why have I sought out the song today?   Putting aside the amazing music which is upbeat and funky, the story is one of business failure and desperation.  The narrator is a poor sharecropper whose crops have failed, barn burned down, and horse went mad.  You think YOU’VE got issues…

The way the farmer finds hope is by signing on with a union (history says this may have been one part of the Trade Union Unity League in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s).  He buys in to the union’s message:

I can’t remember things bein’ so bad.
Then there comes a man with a paper and a pen
Tellin’ us our hard times are about to end.
And then, if they don’t give us what we like
He said, “Men, that’s when you gotta go on strike.”

Which is the business point today.  No, not that we should all go on strike (and kind of self-defeating for those of us that are self-employed…).  If you listened to the sound of this song you’d think it was an upbeat happy tune.  It’s very dark.  If you listen to the words he’s saying you might think the farmer is happy.  If you listen to his meaning, he’s apologizing for abandoning who he is for a new pair of shoes and an external boss.

When we’re dealing with customers or employees, partners or co-workers we need to listen to the words and not just the music, and then we need to pay attention carefully to the words to get to the meaning.  Make sense?

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