History in Song: “Take A Walk” by Passion Pit

This week’s #MusicMonday moves away from songs inspired by big, well-known historical events and takes a look at a song inspired by the songwriter’s own family history.

220px-Take_a_Walk_Passion_Pit

“Take a Walk” was the first single off of Passion Pit’s (an indietronica band) album Gossamer (2012). The song tells what sounds like the story of one immigrant man and his family from arrival in the US through eventual financial success and then financial troubles. The songwriter and lead singer of Passion Pit Michael Angelakos (who is of Greek descent) says that each verse of the song is actually about a different family member, telling the story of his own family, particularly several generations of men of his family and how they have dealt with money.

The early lyrics of the song, though about a specific family, speak to the experiences of many immigrants to the United States. Later verses are a bit more specific and speak to the American Dream motif that some immigrants, but not most, were able to achieve. The song goes full circle though to financial trials that stemmed from chasing that American Dream too far. While reflecting on how his family has handled financial gain and strife, Angelakos also tells the story of their migration, assimilation, and change over time, telling what is ultimately an American story.

If you had to write a song about your family history what might it sound like?

Take a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZX6Q-Bj_xg

Full lyrics below:

All these kinds of places
Make it seem like it’s been ages
But tomorrow some new buildings scrape the sky [progress]
I love this country dearly
I can feel the ladder clearly [progress and the American Dream ideal]
But never thought I’d be alone to try [happy to be in the US but missing family and his love]

Once I was outside Penn Station [in New York City, the port of entry of many immigrants]
Selling red and white carnations [starting out as a street vendor]
We were still alone
My wife and I
Before we married, saved my money
Brought my dear wife over
Now I want to bring my family state side [what some call chain migration, when one family member arrives, finds housing and employment and then helps others migrate as well; New York’s Ellis Island would often ask new migrants if they had employment or family in the US to sponsor them–they wanted to be sure new migrants wouldn’t become homeless or dependent on social aid.]

But off the boat they stayed a while
Then scattered cross the coast
Once a year I’ll see them for a week or so at most
I took a walk

Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, oh-oh-oh
Take a walk, oh-oh-oh
I take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk

Practice isn’t perfect
With the market cuts and loss
I remind myself that times could be much worse
My wife won’t ask me questions
And there’s not so much to ask
And she’ll never flaunt around an empty purse

Once my mother-in-law came
Just to stay a couple nights
Then decided she would stay the rest of her life
I watch my little children, play some board game in the kitchen
And I sit and pray they never feel my strife

But then my partner called to say the pension funds were gone
He made some bad investments
Now the accounts are overdrawn

I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, oh-oh-oh
Take a walk, oh-oh-oh
I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk

Honey it’s your son I think I borrowed just too much
We had taxes we had bills
We had a lifestyle to front
And tonight I swear I’ll come home
And we’ll make love like we’re young
And tomorrow you’ll cook dinner
For the neighbors and their kids
We can rip apart those socialists
And all their damn taxes
But see I am no criminal
I’m down on both bad knees
I’m just too much a coward
To admit when I’m in need

I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, oh-oh-oh
Take a walk, oh-oh-oh
I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk