I have been a Natalie Merchant fan since she was the lead singer for The 10,000 Maniacs. In fact, the post that I wrote back in June about their song “Trouble Me” is one of my all-time favorites. In turning a highly successful career as a member of a band into an equally successful solo act, Merchant was able to accomplish something that has eluded many of her fellow artists. As a musician, her lyrics are well-crafted and profound. She is known to spend hours writing and rewriting, arranging and rearranging, until her work is perfect. Of the many songs I had to choose from, why would I go with “Kind and Generous,” the one that scores highest in the eye roll category and is often dismissed as bland and trivial? Well, for starters, it’s perfect for this week’s theme, right? That’s the most obvious answer, but many of her songs are centered around compassion and kindness, so my choice was certainly not limited to this one. Is it ok to admit that I love this song, that I think the lyrics are sweet and genuine, and that it makes me feel good to listen to it? The very fact that I have to ask that question makes me wonder why we’re drawn to music, poetry, and books that tend to be darker, heavier, and more complicated. Does “Kind and Generous” with its abundance of la, la, la’s and thank you, thank you’s carry any less of an important message than poetry or song lyrics that are so much trickier to explicate? I think not.
It is true that we’ve become fascinated with entertainment that centers around darker themes. If we look at what we prefer in terms of movies, for example, we often feel sheepish to admit we’ve gone to see a “feel good” movie or a rom-com, but we are quick to answer “yes, of course, we’ve seen Manchester by the Sea,” the absolute ultimate in emotionally devastating films, in my opinion. Do we seek that same kind of harshness in our music? In a 1995 article from The Washington Post, in which Merchant was asked this very question after the release of her solo debut, she responded, “I think a lot of people have become accustomed to women artists being less sensitive, a bit more harsh, a bit more confrontational. This record is a bit sensitive so maybe it seems outmoded, but I think what is being discovered is that a lot of people really still desire that in their music.” I wholeheartedly agree, and I believe that Merchant’s statements are still true twenty years later. I’m the first to admit, there are times when only a sad song will do, and Merchant certainly has her share of those. Give “My Beloved Wife” a listen if you feel unsure. I think when we’re feeling grateful to someone who has changed our world with a kindness and generosity that is woven into the very fabric of their being, only an abundance of thank you, thank you’s will suffice. And if we’re left feeling warm and fuzzy after listening, we can hold our heads up high because that’s exactly what should happen after we show effusive gratitude for a kind and generous presence in our lives.
For today’s cocktail, I stuck with gin as my base since it works so well as a representative of the idea of giving freely. I chose to use Empress 1908 for its unapologetically beautiful purple color that comes from butterfly pea blossoms. As my secondary spirit, I went with the equally bold Pamplemousse Rosé from Giffard. It’s grapefruit flavor is out there and just as unapologetic. I added an elderflower syrup for more sweetness and because it symbolizes compassion, and grapefruit juice as the sour component of the drink. The end result was a cocktail that combined four strong flavors in such a beautiful way. It definitely gave me a case of the warm and fuzzies! Cheers everyone. Happy Thursday! Please watch this video of Natalie Merchant performing “Kind and Generous.” It’s amazing!
I Want to Thank You, Thank You…
Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Double strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass and garnish with a grapefruit strip. Enjoy this drink with the person for whom you are most thankful!