Thursday, July 9, 2009
Bill Withers : Grandma's Hands
SONG Grandma’s Hands
WRITTEN BY Bill Withers
PERFORMED BY Bill Withers
APPEARS ON Just As I Am (1971)
Some of the songs that I find the most powerful are the songs that remind me of family. This is especially the case since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. My grandmother Geraldine was a maid. She used to work for a doctor and his wife. She lived next to us in a double house when I was growing up and almost every evening when she came home I would go through the door that separated our houses to see what kind of pastry treats or fruit she bought from the fruit stand on the way home. She always had this song she used to sing when she would give me my treat bag.
My grandmother Mildred was a housewife. She was married to my grandfather for 68 years. She's an awesome woman and I still haven't tasted a better sugar cookie from anyone including the Keebler elves. These ladies were quite different in personality and approach to life. The one thing they had in common as it relates to me is their absolute love and affection for me.
I can admit to being a spoiled young man. There was never a time during the first 31 years of my life that I didn't feel special when I was around them. I don't think Mildred ever yelled at me my entire life. Hurricane Katrina happened on August 29th 2005. Flood waters claimed Geraldine and Mildred's home of 50 years was washed away. On August 30th my world was a lot less bright and comfortable. There hasn’t been a good day since then that couldn’t have been better if they were here.
Grandma's Hands is a song written in 1971 by Bill Withers about his own grandmother. It was included on the album Just As I Am. This album is probably best known for the song Ain't No Sunshine. Which could be his biggest hit along with Lean On Me. Grandma’s Hands was my favorite song of Bill Withers before Hurricane Katrina and now it has a more special meaning to me. In the song Withers describes the power and influence of his grandmother in the family by describing all the things she did with her hands. Her hands could be used to chastise. They could be used for comfort. They could nurse you back to health and save you from a whipping if she got there fast enough.
It’s a beautiful song sung with the sounds of an acoustic band. You can feel the sentiment and emotion with each line. I couldn’t post this unless I found the version of the song when he gives the monologue before the song about walking her to one of those old black churches on Sunday morning. Whether you had to walk with your grandmother to church or not, I am sure anyone who had a grandmother that meant the world to them can feel that story. The video clip is another performance of it with a different story at the beginning. The only cover of the song I felt did justice to the Bill Wither’s words was the version done by Simply Red. I am adding that one as well. I would like to dedicate this post to Geraldine and Mildred.
Clapped in church on Sunday morning
Played a tambourine so well
Used to issue out a warning
She'd say, "Billy don't you run so fast
Might fall on a piece of glass
"Might be snakes there in that grass"
Soothed a local unwed mother
Used to ache sometimes and swell
Used to lift her face and tell her,
"Baby, Grandma understands
That you really love that man
Put yourself in Jesus hands"
Used to hand me piece of candy
Picked me up each time I fell
Boy, they really came in handy
She'd say, "Matty don' you whip that boy
What you want to spank him for?
He didn't drop no apple core"
But I don't have Grandma anymore
If I get to Heaven I'll look for
This is my favorite version
Grandmas Hands (Live) - Bill Withers
Simply Red’s version