Whiter Shade of Pale

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British rock band , Procol Harum , released this mysteriously beautiful song in 1967 . It has been said that John Lennon was obsessed by it and many artists have re-recorded it including Percy Sledge , Joe Cocker , Annie Lennox , Eric Clapton , The Hollies and The Moody Blues . Some claim that the lyrics are derived from a 19th century ghost story and the melody from a Bach cantana . The lyrics below are from a rarely heard full version of the immortal “Whiter Shade of Pale”.

 

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We  skipped the light fandango

Turned cartwheels cross the floor

I was feeling kind of seasick

But the crowd called out for more

The room was humming harder

As the ceiling flew away

When we called out for another drink

And the waiter brought a tray .

 

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And so it was that later

As the miller told his tale

That her face , at first just ghostly ,

Turned a whiter shade of pale .

 

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She said , ” There is no reason

And the truth is plain to see “.

But I wandered thru my playing cards

And they would not let her be

One of sixteen vestal virgins

Who were leaving for the coast

And although my eyes were open wide

They might have just as well been closed .

 

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And so it was that later

As the miller told his tale

That her face , at first just ghostly ,

Turned a whiter shade of pale .

 

She said , ” I’m here on shore leave “.

Though we were miles at sea .

I pointed out this detail

And forced her to agree

Saying , ” You must be the mermaid

Who took King Neptune for a ride ” .

And she smiled at me so sweetly

That my anger straightway died .

 

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If music be the food of love

Than laughter is its queen

And likewise if behind is in front

Then dirt in truth is clean

My mouth by then like cardboard

Seemed to slip straight thru my head

So we crash-dived straightway quickly

And attacked the ocean bed .

 

And so it was that later

As the miller told his tale

That her face , at first just ghostly ,

Turned a whiter shade of pale .

 

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Taking a completely different direction than the one that has made me who I am , there is an uprooting into the deep powerful presence of life .  Like the snapping of a branch it transforms itself into music that I once again hear from the bee-keepers house that I’ve written of before . I stand like silent snow now listening to “Whiter Shade of Pale “. Who is he ? … I’ve never caught sight of him but the music is full volume and scratches like being played on an old record player . Perhaps that is his grandson who falls like a bird out of a tree and runs behind the gate . We share the same air as the melody drifts like the suspended step of the stork . A gold brocade shawl hangs over the doorway perhaps once worn during the reign of Catherine the Great by a village girl dancing to the music from the flute and accordion and goat skinned bagpipes … the ghost from a Whiter Shade of Pale ? It is all so strange like a blue valentine on a February day .  Is it a wish , a dream nostalgic to stand again at that time where life opens to us ? … feather like in its freedom and heavy in its uncertainty . White is the color of this day , white is the color of that cloud moving like beautiful notes , white is the color of a life revealed in a brand new light , a brand new melody …. the ghost of a world .

 

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Photo above of my grand daughter Jocelyn

other photos by Aela Labbe

sculpture by Christina Bothwell

 

2 thoughts on “Whiter Shade of Pale

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