‘We Must Sip The Wine . . .’

When this blog was less than two months old, I wrote about Rick Danko’s self-titled solo album from 1977. Here, revised slightly, is part of what I wrote:

I missed Rick Danko’s solo album when it came out in 1977, although I’m not sure why. I guess I was just too busy, finishing an additional college minor, leaving my hometown for a small town about thirty miles away and diving into the details of writing for a newspaper and the details of living a life in that small town.

One thing that leaving my hometown – the town where I went to college as well – did was separate me from my everyday sources of information. The bull sessions that went on in the student union, in our apartments and in various bars and taverns had provided all of us with a constant stream of information about books, music, drama and current events. Current events, I could still keep up with, but even being only thirty miles away from the friends who helped define the last years of my college life, I was removed enough that I no longer had regular access to their ideas and experiences. And I missed the release of Rick Danko, the first solo album by the bass player and vocalist for The Band . . .

Back then, I was doing what I loved – reporting – and I was learning to live my life. I didn’t notice the album’s release and didn’t get to listen to it for more than ten years. I’m very sure that I also failed to notice many other things taking place at the time, and many of them, I am certain, were no doubt far more important than a record.

But it was bad enough, in retrospect, to not know about Danko’s album. I think it would have helped me as I settled into my life in that small town. We hear on occasion about comfort food – dishes that provide some kind of nostalgic balm as we consume them, dishes that provide nourishment not only for the body but also for the soul. Well, there is also comfort music, records that provides the same internal sustenance. Danko’s album is one of those records, and if I’d had its homey sounds in my apartment during those first months of my so-called adult life, that transition might have been a little less lonely.

I finally got to the album in 1990. I’d been living in the small town of Conway Springs, Kansas, and when the relationship that had brought me there in April wheezed and gave way in just a couple of months, I headed to Columbia, Missouri, three times in less than four weeks: the first time to find a job, the second time to find a place to live, and the third time to stay.

During the second trip, I took ten minutes toward the end of the day to do some digging at a record shop near the University of Missouri, and there I found Rick Danko. If I recall things accurately, I left the record at a friend’s house and then reclaimed it a couple weeks later when I moved to Columbia.

When I wrote about Danko’s album and the idea of “comfort music” back in 2007, I likely had in mind not only my early days in Monticello in 1977 – when Danko’s album might have eased my transition – but also the first weeks in Columbia in July and August of 1990, when I did have the record.

Columbia wasn’t new to me; I’d lived there for eighteen months in 1983-85. But I was tired of moving: My apartment on Ripley Street was my sixth home in just more than three years. And I was no doubt grieving the failed pairing with my ladyfriend in Conway Springs. (It was an odd grief: I’ve had partings that have caused great anguish. This one, though, left me with more of a stunned feeling, something like, “Well, that was quick!”)

And once I settled into my new digs on Ripley Street (and a month later into my even newer digs on Ellis Avenue, and that’s another story to which I may have referred at one time or another), Rick Danko was on the stereo a lot. So were other records; I had about seven hundred LPs to choose from at the time. But I remember Rick Danko’s voice filling some of the empty spaces on both Ripley Street and Ellis Avenue as I settled into Columbia once again.

One of the tracks from Danko’s album that’s most evocative of those evenings is “Sip The Wine.” It’s a love song, and for the most part, it had no bearing on my life at the time, but I remember hearing the closing repetitions of “We must sip the wine” and nodding in agreement. The wine I was sipping wasn’t as sweet as that quaffed by the lovers in the song, but that was okay. I still found comfort in the song.

Before I offer the track, though, I should note that the song’s life began with a different title. And even though Danko is listed on the jacket of his album as the song’s writer, that’s not the case. We’ll dig into all of that later this week. In the meantime, enjoy “Sip The Wine” by Rick Danko.


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