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Frozen Man
from Song Of Myself by Tobin Mueller
Jump to: LyricsLiner NotesSong Of Myself album Click here to download the mp3.

Last thing I remember is the freezing cold
Water reaching up just to swallow me whole
Ice in the rigging and howling wind
Shock to my body as we tumbled in, mercy, God
Then my brothers and the others are lost at sea
I alone am returned to tell thee
Hidden in ice for a century
To walk the world again
Lord have mercy on the frozen man

Next words that were spoken to me
Nurse asked me what my name might be
She was all in white at the foot of my bed
I said angel of mercy, I'm alive or am I dead?
My name is William James McPhee
I was born in 1843
Raised in Liverpool by the sea
But that ain't who I am
Lord have mercy on the frozen man

It took a lot of money to start my heart
To peg my leg and buy my eye
Newspapers call me the state of the art
And the children, when they see me, cry
I thought it'd be nice just to visit my grave
See what kind of tombstone I might have
I saw my wife and my daughter and it seemed so strange
Both dead and gone from extreme old age
See here, when I die make sure I'm gone
Don't leave 'em nothing to work on
You can raise your arm, you can wiggle your hand, unlike myself
You can wave goodbye to the frozen man

I know what it means to freeze to death
To lose a little life with every breath
To say goodbye to life on earth
Then come around again
Lord have mercy on the frozen man
Lord have mercy on the frozen man
Lord have mercy on me
All you, have mercy

- lyrics by James Taylor

Liner Notes

Song Notes: I arranged and recorded this song while in the throes and recovery of persistent pneumonia. Seemed like a great song to demonstrate the awful sounds that sometimes emanate from my lungs. I hadn't considered including this song on Song Of Myself until my pneumonia. I was planning on performing a different song by JT. But then I couldn't shake my cough and decided this was the only song I sounded right singing. (I recorded the vocals in a separate pass so that I could edit out most of the coughing between phrases.)

"The Frozen Man" (New Moon Shine, 1991) was inspired by an article that appeared in National Geographic magazine. The body of this unfortunate man was found a hundred years after he was lost on a late 19th century expedition from the Atlantic to the Pacific across the North Canadian coast. Taylor put his own spin on the story, having the victim coming back to life and realizing that his family was gone. (In a concert screened by BBC Television in March 2009, he said he didn't know much about the story, having simply looked at the pictures, but the more he thought about it the more he realised his composition was about his own father, who had spent two years at the South Pole with the Navy.)

This was the most challenging arrangement for me. The James Taylor version is driven by percussion and a very rhythmic guitar part. I had no idea how to represant that relentless feeling of drive and forward motion. I'm kind of glad the pneumonia took so long to abate. I needed all that time to figure it out.

I tried to invoke the sea shanty music of The Frozen Man's own era. And the sense of ice and a world full of sharp, cold things. The spaces between the notes help to illustrate his sense separateness. The rhythms invoke his sense of particality and common sense. But there is no request for pity. Only mercy.

Mercy, something we may all need.

Song Of Myself

Return to the Song Of Myself page.

Other lyrics pages from Song Of Myself

  1. Impossible Dream [Mitch Leigh/Joe Darion, from Man of la Mancha]
  2. Dignity [Bob Dylan]
  3. American Tune [Paul Simon]
  4. Blue Tattoos [Joni Mitchell]
  5. Blackbird [Paul McCartney]
  6. Being Alive [Stephen Sondheim, from Company]
  7. Frozen Man [James Taylor]
  8. I Have Been Deceived [Elton John/Bernie Taupin]
  9. Let's Pretend [Anderson/Wakeman/Bruford/Howe] (altered lyrics)
  10. Oh Danny Boy [traditional, lyrics by Federic Weatherly]
  11. No Place Like Home [Arlen/Mueller/Mankowski]
  12. Before There Were Gods [lyrics by Tobin Mueller, music by Mueller/Hedges]