Steve Coffee, Songwriter

The Writing on the Wall

©2006 Stephen R Coffee

A multi-layered song about family history, based on true stories. The cabin photos in the video are from the day that, twenty years later, inspired me to write the song. The portraits are all family.


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I drove my Daddy out to see
the little two room shack
The place where he’d grown up
was almost falling down
Stepping over rotten boards
to have a look around
What took me by surprise
And really took him back
Was glued to those walls

The Daily Oklahoman, 1936
Even on the ceiling,
it covered every inch
All the news that was ever fit
for filling in a crack
Was waiting to be read
And I saw my daddy’s eyes
haze up like a crystal ball

(Chorus)
‘Cause they’d say Junior won’t you tell us
what this story here’s about
The words beneath that picture
Won’t you sound ‘em out
Yeah this was their evening news
And most of what he read
He didn’t even understand
Stock reports and talk of war
in strange and distant lands
3 or 4 years of schooling and they
think you know it all
when only you can read
The writing on the wall

Yonder set the cookstove
by that Studebaker ad
the kids slept in the corner
over by them ladies shoes
The latest news from Tulsa,
may as well been Timbuktu
it was blurred and faded now
and crumbled to the touch
Baseball scores and all
There was Hitler and the Russians
CaliforNiAy or bust
Rodeos, picture shows
And Mrs. Roosevelt
Holding back the rain and the snow,
and most of all the dust
and though it may have helped
to keep the outside out
the world came to call

(Repeat Chorus)

Then I felt the wind blow in
Delivering the news that all things pass

 (third chorus)
So I said daddy won’t you tell me
what this story’s all about
The words behind your eyes
Won’t you let ‘em out
That’s when I finally knew
The lines he’s had to walk
The meaning in between
It’s not what’s written on a page
or crawls across the screen
16 years of school and I don’t
know nothing at all
but I think that I can read
The writing on the wall

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