Song to the Siren

Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley performing on The Monkees in 1968

Looking again at cultural meta-conversations and changes in human thought from year to year, much like the case of Guido Jesus, Blue Monday, and Friggin’ in the Riggin’. Who’s heard of a lovely ballad called Song to the Siren? It’s turned into one of those beautiful ideas that echoes over and over and over through our culture, all around the world, and for decades.

If you’re a Boomer, you might remember the track from a folk singer named Tim Buckley. He wrote the song, a plaintive cry in the late 1960’s. Its widest distribution was a performance on the very last episode of The Monkees in 1968. The song, lovely as it was, dropped out of public consciousness until the mid-1980’s.

If you’re a Gen Xer, you’ll probably recognize the cover of the song from This Mortal Coil, recreated as a yelping, soulful cry from the 1984 album It’ll End in Tears. Totally coincidentally, Liz Frazier of Cocteau Twins (who sang this interpretation) had an intense personal relationship with Tim Buckley’s son, Jeff Buckley. (Liz never met Tim, as he died in the early 1970’s.)

A decade later, in the 1990’s, Song to the Siren got covered as a trance track by an act called Lost Witness, was retitled Did I Dream, and became a fairly well-known dancefloor hit in the UK, but never charted very high in the States.

Over here in the U.S., Did I Dream was sampled by Los Angeles trash techno outfit Messiah, and was woven into their track called Temple of Dreams.

There’s a new version of the song circulating now, more clearly influenced by Liz Frazier than Tim Buckley. This version for the younger generation is a hymn, full of sad grace, by a young man recording under the name Psychiatrist.

Tim’s track has been distilled to a single lovely question that many of us have heard, seen painted on walls, worked into poems: “Did I dream you dreamed about me?” Wonderful thing to have left behind as your legacy, a single question powerful enough to echo through three generations in so many ways.

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