‘And The Night Comes Again . . .’

Phil Ochs wrote “Crucifixion” in reaction to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas fifty years ago today. I’ve shared Glenn Yarbrough’s version before, but it’s the only thing that belongs here today. It’s from Yarbrough’s 1967 album, For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her.

And the night comes again to the circle-studded sky
The stars settle slowly, in loneliness they lie
’Till the universe explodes as a falling star is raised
The planets are paralyzed, the mountains are amazed
But they all glow brighter from the brilliance of the blaze
With the speed of insanity, then he died

In the green fields a-turning, a baby is born
His cries crease the wind and mingle with the morn
An assault upon the order, the changing of the guard
Chosen for a challenge that’s hopelessly hard
And the only single sign is the sighing of the stars
But to the silence of distance they are sworn

Images of innocence charge him go on
But the decadence of destiny is looking for a pawn
To a nightmare of knowledge he opens up the gate
A blinding revelation is served upon his plate
That beneath the greatest love is a hurricane of hate
And God help the critic of the dawn

So he stands on the sea and he shouts to the shore
But the louder that he screams, the longer he’s ignored
For the wine of oblivion is drunk to the dregs
And the merchants of the masses almost have to be begged
’Till the giant is aware, someone’s pulling at his leg
Someone is tapping at the door

Then his message gathers meaning. It spreads across the land
The rewarding of the pain is the following of the man
But ignorance is everywhere and people have their way
Success is an enemy to the losers of the day
In the shadows of the churches, who knows what they pray
For blood is the language of the band

The Spanish bulls are beaten, the crowd is soon beguiled
The matador is beautiful, a symphony of style
Excitement is ecstatic, passion places bets
Gracefully he bows to ovations that he gets
But the hands that are applauding are slippery with sweat
Saliva is falling from their smiles

So dance, dance, dance
Teach us to be true
Dance, dance, dance
’Cause we love you

Then this overflow of life is crushed into a liar
The gentle soul is ripped apart and tossed into the fire
It’s the burial of beauty, it’s the victory of night
Truth becomes a tragedy limping from the light
The heavens are horrified, they stagger from the sight
And the cross is trembling with desire

They say they can’t believe it, it’s a sacrilegious shame
Now, who would want to hurt such a hero of the game?
But you know I predicted it, I knew he had to fall
How did it happen? I hope his suffering was small
Tell me every detail, I’ve got to know it all
And do you have a picture of the pain?

Time takes her toll and the memory fades
But his glory is growing in the magic that he made
Reality is ruined, there is nothing more to fear
The drama is distorted into what they want to hear
Swimming in their sorrow, in the twisting of a tear
As they wait for the new thrill parade

The eyes of the rebel have been branded by the blind
To the safety of sterility, the threat has been repined
The child was created, to the slaughterhouse he’s led
So good to be alive when the eulogy is read
The climax of emotion, the worship of the dead
As the cycle of sacrifice unwinds

So dance, dance, dance
Teach us to be true
Dance, dance, dance
’Cause we love you

And the night comes again to the circle-studded sky
The stars settle slowly, in loneliness they lie
’Till the universe explodes as a falling star is raised
The planets are paralyzed, the mountains are amazed
But they all glow brighter for the brilliance of the blaze
With the speed of insanity. Then he died

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One Response to “‘And The Night Comes Again . . .’”

  1. David Lenander says:

    It’s a really valiant attempt to make this song work, with the orchestration and Yarbrough’s vocal I’m impressed at just how ambitious this is. But does it work? At least I listened to all of it and read through the words, and when I listen to Och’s own recording, my mind wanders off (though I may like his best) and when I’ve listened to Jim & Jean’s recording I mostly haven’t listened to the words very well, though I like the sound of it best of these versions. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a couple more covers but can’t recall them just now. Perhaps there’s one on that Ochs tribute album. I suppose your mileage may vary, right now I think it’s all enough overdone that it undercuts its potential impact, but maybe a different day I’ll decide that this is just perfect. I think it’s too long. But maybe I’m trying too hard to put it into a “about John Kennedy” box and maybe the song really demands an appreciation on a broader basis, about life and existence, maybe, or the glorious attempt that ends in tragedy. Or maybe that’s the same thing.

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