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Harris’ Song of the Week: The Drinking Song by Moxy Fruvous

This week, I thought I would bring you a song of the week that almost every single Truth About Music reader had never heard before. I was first introduced to this song in a music theory course during high school. Ever since the first time I heard it, I loved the simple melody and the truly emotional lyrics. The song is titled “The Drinking Song” by Moxy Fruvous, a Canadian band known for their politically charged folk style music.

The song is so simple. It features the group singing along with an acoustic guitar and an organ. There is almost nothing else going on behind the scenes. It’s that simple. What really makes the song great are the lyrics. While no definitive meaning can be found, the song seems to tell the tale of a pair of friends who spend the night drinking before one of them passes away the next morning. Moving would be an understatement.

An interesting nugget about the song is that it takes a line from an old Leadbelly song called “Goodnight Irene.” Coming in at the tale end, they use this portion of the song as the eulogy. While I don’t usually do this, because of the deep meaning in this songs lyrics I have posted them below. Enjoy them and please let me know if this song moves you the same way it moved me when I first listened to it five years ago.

Lyrics for “The Drinking Song” by Moxy Fruvous

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn
My senses finally blurred

He was a rock, to the end, a solid reminder
Couldn’t deny a friend
We lived in the noise and the sweet amber poison
Peekin’ up the skirt of the end

And we’d drink, two gnarly dudes and some records
Much like plates of black food
We filled up our faces, saw some far places
Stood on the roof in the nude

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn
My senses finally blurred

Between poles, he said “We’re like cows in the grass”
Brushing off flies
Chaise lounging around, standing up, falling down
Till we no longer opened our eyes

And we’d drink, ever notice how drinking’s like war?
Cup o’ troops o’er the gums
To the end of our health, a campaign ‘gainst myself
Armed with bourbons and scotches and rums

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn
My senses finally blurred

Think of bombs, we’re poised on the edge of disaster
Whether it’s right or it’s wrong
We opened the window, played some Nintendo
Sang a few bars of some pretty old song:

Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I’ll see you in my dreams

Oh to dream, those impotent bones of extinction
Flying graceful and free
None but the best ’cause the man cannot rest
Till he’s finally beaten his me

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn
My senses finally blurred

Till the end, he passed out on the sundeck that morning
Quietly saying goodbye
But I was so hammered I sputtered and stammered
Told him he couldn’t just die

He was a rock, went straight for his own Armageddon
Face froze in a grin
Ambulance flyin’ in, I never drank again
Can’t really call that a loss or a win

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn
My senses finally blurred

Add A Comment

3 Legacy Comments

  • Comment by mike kiniry posted February 19, 2011 at 20:39

    Maybe my favorite song ever. An old friend of mine named Bill Bowen theorizes the it’s about the AIDS epidemic and how it burst onto the scene in the late 80s, right before Bargainville came out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_the_Band_Played_On

    …he was a rock…

    Just a thought… I’ve never decided whether I think he’s correct. He got to know the guys in the band pretty well and put the question to them but they never would say whether he was right or wrong. :)

    mike

  • Comment by Miranda posted March 17, 2012 at 22:17

    I love this song too. It makes me think of my brother, who died young (of cancer). Not the drinking part … mostly, the “he was a rock” part. Anyway, great, gorgeous, sad song.

  • Comment by Rob Passmore posted October 02, 2012 at 01:04

    I first heard this song shortly after it came out in 1993. It has had such a profound effect on me that I credit it for both my love of drinking and for my moderation (last verse of the song….). I used to sing the song to my youngest when he was but a few months old with acid reflux. He heard the song in my playlist the other day (he’s 4 now) and recognized the song and could sing some of the works with me from memory….truly moving indeed. Thanks for covering this song and the band on this blog. There seems to be a shortage of this style of music these days.