top of page

100 Days of Gladness: Day 36

Retrieving a song that got away

Image courtesy of

To understand this gladness about retrieving a song that got away, you need the backstory. This is how I found the song the first time:

In the summer of 1988, we lived in Cody, Wyoming. My husband, Harry, was a world renowned western artist, and we lived part of our time in Cody, and the other part in Tuscany. It was a rich, busy time and our kids were young.

One summer, a great traveling show called “Ballad of the West” came to Cody. Bobby Bridger wrote it, and full company productions of it ran for eight consecutive summer seasons in Wyoming. Grammy Award-nominee Bill Ginn, Wes Studi (who later had a role in “Dances With Wolves”) and other stellar musicians were members of the cast.

Harry loved them. Harry and I both loved them all. Many evenings, we’d have them over to our house. We’d cook together and talk about the world and everything in it. Bobby made a mean fettuccini alfredo, and I made my signature salad. One night, as we came to the heart of the evening, the belly of it really, we all sang for one another.

I’ll never forget it. I had lived for so many years in a cowboy isolation tank — where it was all Hank Williams or 1970s pop radio (in the eighties) and practically no one even knew Joni Mitchell’s name, much less her music — and now, here were seven or eight musical jewels all in one room, with ears plugged into not only the core of the earth, but the rest of the outside world to boot.

I sang one of my songs, “Pieces of the Puzzle.” When I got to the last verse. . .

the pieces of my life are all mixed up here.

They don’t all fit together, but they do.

This one shows me drinking from a cup, here.

And this one shows me pouring some. . .”

(everyone in the room whispered with me) “. . .for you.”

My tribe. My people. MY people. But it was excruciating too, because I knew that in no time, they’d be gone, and I’d be back in the isolation tank forever.

Life was kind, though. That’s actually not how it went.

Bill Ginn kept after me. Offered to do a demo. A couple months following their departure, Bill had lined up a date with Mitch Watkins in San Antonio. We were to meet there and get three songs down. Nothing short of thrilling. I was out of my mind, dizzy with joy. Got everything set. Bought my tickets. Arranged for the kids to be taken care of for a week.

A couple days before my departure, Harry sat on the corral fence with me outside our home. We were watching the sunrise. I was so full of hope. He spoke in tender, loving tones, a voice that made me feel so safe (and lulled me to sleep).

He spoke of how great my music is, what a perceptive, sharp lyricist I am. And with that, he made the case, over the course of about an hour, that because I am so great, I should not pursue my music. His argument was that my career would surely take off; and it would eventually destroy the family. I would become famous. It would be too heady for me, and I would no doubt succumb to drug addiction. And what would become of the children?

I bought it. Without thinking, I bought hook, line, and sinker.

What perplexes me now, so many decades later, is how quickly it happened. It only took me an hour to sink into a deep game-faced crevice. I cancelled the flight, and went to work like nothing was out of place.

That morning when I got to work (did I mention I worked for Harry selling his art?), our bookkeeper, Cheryl, took one look at me and said, “What happened?”

Me: “Nothing. I’m just a little tired.”

Cheryl: “Bullshit. You look like you died.”

I tried to shrug it off, but something profound in me had gone underground. I went home that day, ate with the kids, put them to bed, then walked to the dead end and sobbed. Prayed for an archangel to come and surgically remove from me all my music so it wouldn’t keep tormenting me. When my prayer was complete, I walked back home and wrote the song this blogpost is about, “Somebody Up There.” (lyrics below)

My gladness sings in me today, because of my son Jesse.

Decades went by and as life took over, this poor little song tumbled backward into my archives, harder and hard to find.

My son, Jesse, asked me to send him the recording some months ago. When I couldn’t find it, he kept after me until I found the lyrics. And then he asked me what the chord progressions were. When I came up empty, he stayed on the phone with me, while we fumbled together to find them. (He is a consummate musician, so working with him in this way was a joy.)

It wasn’t happening. I just couldn’t get it. Couldn’t get the chords to land where I knew they belonged. It had been thirty-five years. Eventually, I gave up. I bowed my head and walked away.

But a week later, I found them in my hands! The whole song, lyrics and music. In tact. Exactly as I’d originally written it. I sat down at my keyboard and sang it through, and all the chords spilled out of my fingers exactly how I wanted them to.

Although the original recording is lost for now, I will make a new one, thanks to that good, good man, my son, Jesse. He wrote a gorgeous piece here on Medium about this very song and where it sits in his own life and heart. Check it out here.


Somebody up there knows me by name.

Somewhere out there my soul is the same,

no matter what happens, no matter how hard I fall,

somewhere out there, it doesn’t change things at all.

Somebody up there recognizes

all of my masks, all my disguises.

I put on confusion. I try nonchalance.

But the gods, they still find me in the mirrors of restaurants.

Oh and they’ll find you, too.

No matter what you do —

invoke the Force, or try to change

the course of truth.

Life as we know it changes a lot.

And folks we thought were sound can be sold and bought.

We wish it were different, but it ain’t gonna change.

The human condition roams a wide, wide range.

Oh, and you’ll see me there,

no matter when or where.

We love, we fight, we’re loose, we’re tight,

We’re lost in a crowd, then we’re suddenly free and alone

Somebody up there knows me by heart.

And they sing me the song from the chords on the chart.

I listen with yearning.

I draw back in fear.

And then. . .most often by chance,

by mistake,

by default. . .

I begin to hear.


bottom of page