Both the Robinson poem and the Paul Simon song were taken as comments on how wealth and power could not buy you happiness – and that ordinary people were often happier than the rich even if they didn’t realize it themselves.. Read More…
And the rumors of his parties…
Oh, he surely must be happy with everything he has got…
… So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read
Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head.”.
At first when American singer-songwriter Paul Simon came out with this song it didn’t quite do well in the charts. But when he re-recorded it with Art Garfunkel it became a break-out hit. What many people didn’t know was that Paul’s song was actually inspired by a poem called ‘Richard Cory’* written by American poet E.A. Robinson in 1897 that told the story of a rich man, Richard Cory, who had everything one could hope for but eventually committed suicide.
Then, in the 1970s, Paul McCartney during the historic tour of America with his band Wings, took to including Richard Cory in his live shows. He got one of his sidemen, Denny Laine, to sing it and made one important change to his lyric. In the Simon and Garfunkel song, the narrator says, “I wish that I could be Richard Cory.” In the live Wings’ version, the line became “I wish that I could be John Denver”. The line brought the house down every night because, at that stage, Denver was the biggest recording star in the US. In some ways, many people suggested, McCartney was making a tilted reference to The Beatles and even to himself.
Both the Robinson poem and the Paul Simon song were taken as comments on how wealth and power could not buy you happiness – and that ordinary people were often happier than the rich even if they didn’t realize it themselves.
Two decades later, Denver’s career went into a downward spiral, he began drinking too much and he finally crashed his private plane, killing himself. And I thought of the song a few days ago, when I read about Robin Williams’ suicide.
Why would somebody who made people laugh so much be so sad himself? It turns out now, that he was suffering from
depression and that all the humor he demonstrated in public was a performance. He was actually a sad and unhappy man. In some ways, it is the Richard Cory story all over again. How little we really know about the private lives of those who entertain us so well.
So let’s not expend negative energy envying those we only see from afar (as the songs says “I curse the life I’m living, I curse my poverty, and I wish that I could be Richard Cory”) because we don’t really know what life is like for them.
So let’s just be grateful for what we’ve got. God’s been kind.
* Richard Corey
By Edwin Arlington Robinson
WHENEVER Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.