Archive for December, 2020

Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now”

When I was a teenager, a lot of guitarists hated country music – I know I sure did. Harlan Howard (1927-2002), a popular songwriter, was asked in the 1950s what constituted country music, to which he famously replied “Three chords and the truth.” I had no problem with the truth but I hated those three chords. Three chords is what guitarists played if they couldn’t play anything else. Three chords was a capitulation. In all fairness, country music at that time featured some horrible songs – Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man”, on its own, set women’s rights back 100 years. I eventually changed my mind when a few artists started writing true, honest songs like Merle Haggard’s (1937-2016) “Mama Tried” or Kris Kristofferson’s (b. 1936) “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.”

These days, artists from diverse backgrounds are writing credible songs that resonate with very diverse groups. One such artist is Mary Gauthier (b. 1962), who chose a very circuitous route to end up where she is now. Born in New Orleans to a mother she never knew, she was adopted at the age of one but struggled with many demons growing up. Drug and alcohol addiction ruled her life. At 15, she ran away from home and spent the next several years in drug rehab centres, halfway houses or living with friends. She spent her 18th birthday in a jail cell. She eventually opened a Cajun restaurant in Boston but was arrested for drunk driving on opening night in 1990. However, she has been sober ever since. She wrote her first song at the age of 35, sold her share in the restaurant, and used the money to finance her second album. From then on, her career has climbed steadily – she appeared at many folk festivals, was nominated for three Gay and Lesbian American Music Awards and named new artist of the year by the American Music Association in 2005.

Her most famous song is “Mercy Now”, which she wrote at a time when she felt that she wasn’t getting the artistic attention she deserved. One of her friends reminded her that, considering her life up to now, what she deserved was perhaps the last thing to hope for. Her friend suggested that she might pray for mercy instead.

My version of “Mercy Now” only uses the first two verses of the song. I wrote the last two verses myself to avoid singing Gauthier’s last verses, which glorify America, her Church and State, among other things. I am not an American and I look at America from beyond its borders. What I see is the genocide of the American Indian (First Nations), the systemic racism, segregation and murder of African Americans, the large scale adoption of slavery, and state-sanctioned hand guns and assault weapons which contribute to an endless stream of mass murders. As for the Church, there are over 4,000 religions, churches, denominations and faith groups in the U. S., which dilutes any notion of faith. We should also all keep in mind the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas, where the FBI and the sect clashed for 51 days in 1993, leading to the deaths of nearly 80 people. Not to be outdone, Jim Jones founded the Peoples Temple which ended on November 18, 1878, when 909 people died in a mass murder/suicide at its remote settlement of Jonestown, Guyana.

All this being said, I find that “Mercy Now” is the perfect song for this time of year and for all those who have witnessed the pandemic. We all need a little mercy now.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitars, electric guitar, electric bass guitar
Roch Tassé played and recorded the drums at Howlin’ Huskies Studio, Ste-Cécile-de-Masham, Que.

Mercy Now

posted by R.A.Seguin in Non classé and have No Comments