This is me trying… [William Shatner]
The last place you might think to find a masterful blend of music and poetry is an album by William Shatner, but as strange as it sounds, I think in some ways he’s done it better than anyone I’ve seen.
Shatner’s album Has Been is, by no means, the next big thing in pop media for several reasons:
1: It’s been around since 2004.
2: It’s William Shatner.
3: The music world has a bad taste of Will’s musical endeavors from his 1968 release The Transformed Man that featured a budding Shatner style spoken word set to third rate music. (It’s comical, you should check it out)
4: It’s William Shatner.
Has Been is a collaborative effort between Shatner, Ben Folds (the producer), and a few guests (including Brad Paisley and Joe Jackson).
Needless to say, I was skeptical, when my Ben Folds loving friend introduced me to the album for the first time. I was shocked; because I was enjoying the music and I wanted to sit down with the lyrics. All the sudden I felt like mewithoutyou could go on tour with Captain Kurk. (Yes, I am suggesting that should really happen)
The key to enjoying this album is to approach it the right way. If you come at it like most albums you’re going to be severely disappointed. It’ll be like the time I downed a glass of gin thinking it was a glass of water. If I had known it was gin in the first place, it would have been a completely different experience. (this is me pretending like I would enjoy a glass of a gin)
This is not a album you can jam out to on the highway. It’s an album you cry to if you’re a bad father or had one. Here are a couple tips to listening to the album:
1: Listen to the song That’s me Trying first so you can get used to hearing Shatner’s voice and not laughing while enjoying a classy Ben Folds song.
2: Listen to that same song again and start listening to the lyrics:
I got your address from the phone book at the library
Wandered in, looked you up and you were there
Weird that you’ve been living, maybe, 2 miles away for the best part of 20 years
You must be, what, in your early forties now
If I remember,
You were born in June or was it May?
Eisenhower was the president although it may have been JFK
Years of silence
Not enough who could blame us giving up?
Above the quiet there’s a buzz
That’s me trying
You still working in that store on ventura?
You still going with–no, that’s not fair
I know I haven’t been the very best of dads
I’ll hold my hand up there
The reason that I’m writing is that i’d like for us to meet
Get a little daughter dad action going soon
We can put things behind us
Eat some pizza, drink some beer
You still see your sister Lemli?
Bring her, too
But I don’t want to talk about any of that bad stuff
Why I missed out on your wedding and your high school graduation
I’d like to explain, but I can’t
So let’s keep things neutral
Stick to topics that won’t bug us
How ’bout this?
Let’s choose a book and we’ll read it before we meet
Then we can sit down at a restaurant
Have a look at the menu and talk about it while we eat
See, if we never had a problem
Then that’s what life would be like
So let’s just pretend that the past didn’t happen
I don’t really like thriller as well.
I don’t want to know if I’ve got grandchildren
no need to tell me where I went wrong
I don’t want to know what happened in your thirties
You wanna try ‘cold mountain’?
Or is that too long?
Folds and Shatner achieve a such a powerful voice in this poem; in a way it’s exactly what you would expect from an aging dead-beat father, but it somehow bring in a certain eccentricity and apprehension that has the reader going back and forth from sympathetic to indicting.
The entirety of the album provides a variety of musical genres and styles which can make for a bit of a confusing experience at times, I must say.
Again it come down to your approach. After That’s Me Trying I suggest moving on to I Can’t Get Behind That and prepare yourself for a big jump. Beyond that, take each song as it comes with as much of fresh start as you can… Oh and just don’t listen to Has Been despite the fact that it is the title track.
In short, we have to respect this album for its dedication to the union between poetry and music, something few artists today recognize or utilize.