Shoe strings and dirty sleeves

You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.

– John Coltrane

And he definitely would know. Earnestness, sincerity, plays a role in anything you do. Being true to yourself at something first, knowing what you want to do even if you don’t yet know how to do it is a way of moving forward. Coltrane said when they first heard him and Miles Davis together, people didn’t like it. Knowing what you’re doing, whether playing, listening, watching, or making, is a prerequisite all around.

But, with those guys at least, we all got with the program soon enough. They turned all kinds of things into art and back again, even music, whether it was really new or really old disguised as new. Without any explanation whatsoever, a character in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor twice refers to “the tune of the Greensleeves.” The song gets mentioned by Falstaff: some claim Henry VIII wrote it. So it was already pretty well known by the time Coltrane recorded it in 1961 for his first Impulse! release, Africa/Brass. It’s a traditional English folk song, with lyrics and everything:


My men were clothed all in green,
And they did ever wait on thee;
All this was gallant to be seen,
And yet thou wouldst not love me.

According to Wikipedia,

It is widely thought that Lady Green Sleeves was a promiscuous young woman and perhaps a prostitute.[2] At the time, the word “green” had sexual connotations, most notably in the phrase “a green gown”, a reference to the way that grass stains might be seen on a lady’s dress if she had made love outside.[3]

Ah, connections. It’s funny how you can start nosing around and before long, you’ve stumbled onto what you were looking for. The name of a really well-known tune, supposedly written way back when for Anne Boleyn, turns up all over the place and even rhymes with a concept being obliterated in real time. That’s perseverance. What is it we are doing? What’s the key? Well, Sun Ra claimed he was from Saturn.

“Isness of the was” indeed.