Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Boy



Suns can set and willows can weep their tears
Summer boy, give me your years
Give me your hand before autumn starts
Summer boy, give me your heart



Have you ever noticed how in mainstream U.S. culture it's not uncommon (or necessarily frowned upon) to refer to a young woman as a girl while it's rare to hear of a young man being referred to as a boy?

Think of classic pop songs like "Standing on a Corner (Watching All the Girls Go By)" or the book (and film) Girl, Interrupted. In both these and many other examples, "girl" refers to a post-pubescent young woman. Yet I'm hard pressed to come up with examples in pop culture (outside of black and queer circles) of a young man being called a boy without it being meant as some sort of put-down. (Don Henley’s song "The Boys of Summer" is a rare exception).

So why the aversion to calling young men boys? No doubt it reflects our society's patriarchal mindset, one in which "girl" often serves to diminish and/or objectify an adult woman. The same, of course, can't possibly be allowed to happen to a man in such a society!

Yet, seriously, despite this, I think there is a certain post-pubescent age and level of maturity at which a young person can still be referred to as either a girl or boy; when we acknowledge that these terms speak in a positive way of youthfulness, with all its promise and seemingly boundless energy! And, of course, one can appreciate and admire the beauty of youth without lasciviousness in one's gaze or intent.

I found myself reflecting on all of this as I searched online for an image to open this post, one that celebrates the beginning of summer through the sharing of Buffy Sainte-Marie's Baroque-folk offering "Summer Boy," first released on her 1967 album Fire & Fleet & Candlelight.

In the end I settled on a cropped version of Michael Bidner's photograph, "John, Quebec – 1989." (For the complete image, click here.)

For me, this image beautifully complements Buffy Sainte-Marie's haunting music and lyrics. Enjoy!




Face of joy covering all your fears
Summer boy, give me your tears
Hands of gold playing a prayer
Heart and soul praying a song

Clowns can smile and gardeners grow their flowers
Summer boy, give me your hours
Give me your glance like the wing of a dove
Summer boy, give me your love

Suns can set and willows can weep their tears
Summer boy, give me your years
Give me your hand before autumn starts
Summer boy, give me your heart


– "Summer Boy"
by Buffy Sainte-Marie
(from the 1967 album Fire & Fleet & Candlelight)


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Summer Light
Summer Blooms
Shards of Summer
A Song of Summer

Image: "John, Quebec – 1989" (detail) by Michael Bidner.


1 comment:

Don said...

Good article . . . interesting viewpoint! Thanks Michael.