Lyrics of Jill’s Own Songs

Here you’ll find the lyrics to several (but not all) of the songs that Jill herself has written over the years. She recorded Right by your side on The Celtic Cradle, and has recorded several more on The King’s Well, A Lone Voice and Still Life. [See the Albums pages for ordering details.]

© All rights reserved. All of Jill’s songs are under the protection of ACUM, the copyright organisation in Israel. If you are interested in them, please contact Jill directly.

Index

Right by your side
Time for letting go
Identities
The healing sound of water
Thoughts of independence
Down the days
Come again, love
Racheli
The king’s well
A piece of my heart
Little miracles
The sunset
Open house
Still life
May to December
To the island

 Right by your side © 1987
for Tal and Lisa

Click here to hear an excerpt from this song.

I wrote this lullaby on the bus, on my way to the Tel Aviv Folk Club. The poor person sitting next to me must have thought I had a deep psychological problem: I kept muttering and humming to myself all the way, as I had no paper on which to write down either lyrics or melody, and I was afraid of forgetting both before I could get home. It was recorded on my second solo album, The Celtic Cradle.

Sleep, my child: rest your weary head.
Let the night fold around your bed;
Stars above will take you where dreams begin;
When you wake, the morning will come again.
Sleep, little one, sleep;
Dream happy dreams till the morning and then,
When you awake,
I will be here right by your side.

 Time for letting go © 1996

Click here to hear an excerpt from this song.

I returned briefly to New Zealand in 1996, to visit my parents. One of the things I was most looking forward to doing was visiting my beloved great-aunt Sue (Sarah Rachel Garshook), a favourite with all the family: I was planning to take my father’s guitar over to the old-age home and give her and her friends a concert… Sadly, she died three weeks before I arrived. Although she was 90 years old and her death wasn’t totally unexpected, I was stunned. I hadn’t realised just how important it had been to me to see her one last time and sing for her: she had never heard me sing live since I left New Zealand in 1979. The song is on my fourth album, The King’s Well.

When I look at our children
See a bit of us inside
It’s the way they bloom, become themselves,
That fills me up with pride.
They keep me company and on my toes
As day to day they grow;
And I hope that, when the time comes,
I’ll be able to let go.

I left my home and family
And places that I knew;
Flew half-way across the world
To start my life anew.
Most years have fled too swiftly,
Though some have crawled too slow,
And I’ve come to the conclusion:
It’s time for letting go.

Some memories you don’t forget
Though you learn how to forgive.
They can shape the way you see the world,
No matter how you live.
But somehow time works miracles:
You wake one day and know
That you can get up and continue –
You’ve managed to let go.

I close my eyes and try to see
The face of an old friend
But the features blur and only photos
Bring them back again.
I can’t go back the way I came
On the river’s endless flow
I won’t forget the good times
But it’s time now to let go.

 Identities © 1997

Click here to hear an excerpt from this song.

Waiting at the dentist’s rooms back in 1997, I came across an article in Vogue magazine in which a writer and an actor discussed their own sense of identity as Englishmen, and the ways in which young British people see themselves… My mind starting whirring — in sync with the dentist’s drill — and when I got home, this song popped out. The first verse is about an old family friend; I’m happy to say, however, that I don’t personally know anybody like the young man in the second verse! The song is on The King’s Well.

Best friend’s got a new kitchen
Best friend’s got new shoes
And keeping up with the Jones’ is
About all that she can do
She don’t know what she wants, now
She don’t know where she’s from
She don’t know where she’s going
Or why everything goes wrong
But if she could just have those new things, now
(Make everything feel all right)
She thinks that she would have an identity to keep her warm at night.

Young boy just reaching manhood
Has to prove he belongs
They’ve taught him only to hate, now
He can’t distinguish right from wrong.
He knows what it is that he wants, now
He sure knows where he is from
And he thinks he knows where he’s going
And that nothing can go wrong.
So if he could just kill somebody
(Make everything feel all right)
He thinks that he would have an identity to keep him warm at night.

Some people know what they want, now
Some people feel they belong
The lucky few know where they’re going
And get there if they’re strong.
Try to keep your head above water
Try to ignore all the lies
And in choosing yourself the right label
Try ‘human being’ for size.
If you can’t solve all the world’s problems
You can put the little things right;
Then you will have an identity to keep you warm at night.
No, we can’t solve all the world’s problems
But we can try to put the little things right;
Then we will have an identity to keep us warm at night.

 The healing sound of water © 1996-1997

Click here to hear an excerpt from this song.

This song came to me while I was briefly visiting my hometown in 1996. The amount of water I saw was overwhelming, after living so many years in the Middle East, and the sound of one friendly little stream running in the leafy park where my older sister and I used to play as small children was deeply moving. The song is on The King’s Well. It has been described as ‘the heart-song of many of the half-million or so Kiwis who have migrated to lands of more opportunity.’

I walk along the streets I used to know well as a child
With the spring flowers in profusion and the bush all growing wild;
And in the trees, each hidden bird sings out its lone, wild part
And the healing sound of water fills my heart.

I can’t stay — the time is going fast;
I can’t stay suspended in my past.
My future lies 10,000 miles away.
I can’t stay.

Now I live high in the mountains, far above the desert sands
Where the winds of winter chill me and I’m soaked by heavy rains;
And summer nights are redolent of flowers and wild herbs,
But the healing sound of water can’t be heard.

There were lakes and streams and rivers all around when I was young,
And every day, the harbour wind laid salt upon my tongue;
I’ve learned to live without them in this parched and arid land,
But in my dreams, the healing sound of water runs again.

 Thoughts of independence © 2001

I started writing on one topic and the song veered off, all by itself, into another.

Where are the parents who say to their children,
‘Let me tell you what’s crucial in life:
Forget about the sweet hereafter
While we live in this world full of hatred and strife.
Why should we care where we go when our life’s done?
Don’t fog your conscience with ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’.
We’re put here on earth to look out for each other
And make our lives better while here we dwell.’

Where are the parents who warn their children,
‘Take a deep breath before you go and fight;
The media tell you that everything’s simple,
That it’s all divided between black and white.
But let me tell you that life’s seldom like that:
It’s made up of dozens of shades of gray.
So take time to ask questions — then question the answers;
You find out the truth in this circular way’

Where are the parents who say to their children,
‘It’s great to know you have thoughts of your own.
I hear what you’re saying and it makes sense to me,
And it makes me proud of the way that you’ve grown.
Some people are leaders, while some like to follow:
It’s okay to be somewhere between the two.
You’re not trying to be a hero, but you’re no weakling:
I’m happy to say I can look up to you.’

 Down the days © 2001

Click here to hear an excerpt from this song.

This is a meditation on the despair and confusion that so many young people seem to feel when the realities of adulthood hit home. The song is on The King’s Well.

Jack and Jamie playing in the dust –
Halcyon years in which nothing seems to matter much
An endless stream of summer days
That scintillate in golden haze,
The water fights,
Cicada nights…
Who would think it could ever end
When you’re tumbling down the days with your best friend?

Jack and Jamie wading through the mud –
Empty years in which reality hits with a thud:
An endless treadmill going round,
Though once they thought they’re gaining ground,
The drunken fights,
The wasted nights…
Who wouldn’t want it all to end
When you’re just stumbling through the days with your old friend?

There must be something I can say,
Some echo of experience to help to them find a way;
Is there something I should do?
You know, I think I saw it coming;
You see, I’ve been floundering too…
When the blind lead the blind, what can you expect?
After all this time, has someone got it right yet?

Tim and Davy playing in the dust –
Halcyon years in which nothing seems to matter much:
An endless stream of golden days
That scintillate in summer haze,
The water fights,
Cicada nights…
Who would think it could ever end
When you’re tumbling down the days with your best friend?

 Come again, love © 2001
for M. A. M.

Click here to hear an excerpt from this song.

While the chorus of this song came to me in a dream, the story that it tells is based on the real-life experience of a dear friend who hails from the Western Isles of Scotland. It is on The King’s Well.

Early every morning,
When the sky’s still black,
Johnnie hauls his boots on,
Jumper on his back,
Grabs his lamp and tucker,
Running down toward the sea.
Come again, love,
Come again,
Skim the foam safe home to me.

So again at daybreak,
The laddie rowed away
With Danny, his old partner,
Straining past the bay,
Nets spread wide for fishes,
And braced against the spray…

I put the house in order,
Leave the bread to rise,
Take a break for coffee:
Sleep still rings my eyes;
And as I wake the children,
I monitor the skies…

Evening’s fast approaching,
Day is winding down;
Time for all to gather
Homeward, safe and sound;
The lads should be returning
At any moment now…

But here I am still standing,
Alone now, on the shore.
The other boats are beachèd:
There’s only one craft more;
And swift the sky is darkening,
It turns its face from me…

 Racheli © 2002

Click here to hear an excerpt from this song.

In memory of Rachel Levi, 17, who was killed by a suicide-bomber in Jerusalem on March 29, 2002. She was a friend and class-mate of our older daughter. ‘Shabbat‘ is the Hebrew word for the Jewish Sabbath, which begins on a Friday evening at sunset. The third verse refers to Racheli’s brief bout with bulimia, which she had successfully overcome. The song is on The King’s Well.

Racheli walks to the store on a Friday afternoon:
Just another little chore and shabbat will be here soon.
She likes to help out when she can –
Today she’s time on her hands;
And she thinks she’ll buy some flowers to brighten up the room.

When she goes down to the square, sometimes her brother tags along,
They link hands and swing their arms and sing a marching song;
Though they’re ten years apart,
They laugh and sing with the same heart;
But today she’s going alone — one quick dash, then straight back home.

Racheli walks to the store a few minutes down the street;
The centre’s full of passersby; the spring air tastes so sweet;
She’s feeling stronger every day –
Her friends have helped her find a way –
And she’s looking t’ward the future and the challenges she’ll meet.

She doesn’t see the other girl with a package ’round her waist,
Or the women selling herbs who leave the place in haste:
She’s thinking ‘sugar, eggs, flowers’ and ‘shabbat, in a few hours’.
She nears the entrance of the store…
She doesn’t live here any more.

 The king’s well © 2002

Click here to hear an excerpt from this song.

While reading John Steinbeck’s Winter of Our Discontent, I came across the concept of the king’s well, an idea explored in one of H.C. Andersen’s tales. This is the title track on my fourth album and an excerpt features in my seventh video (coming up later in 2015).

Chorus:
And don’t we need the king’s well
to tell our story to?
Oh the deep, dark waters
to whisper secrets to?
When we can’t hold it in
and there’s pressure all around
let the ripples soothe your tension
and the stones absorb the sound.

I could shout it from the hilltops
if I wanted you to hear;
write a letter to the papers
to demonstrate I care.
But some things just can’t be voiced yet -
feelings I had not foreseen -
and I need to take it slowly
till I’ve worked out what they mean.

They say that in the old days
there was a fine way out
for the leader who had troubles
and a heart possessed by doubt;
and the king who couldn’t trust a man
could whisper down a well:
he could cry his secrets freely
and the waters wouldn’t tell.

So forgive me if I’m silent
and my thoughts seem far away:
I’m adjusting to the routine
of just getting through each day.
Yes, my mind is whirling elsewhere,
untangling this thread
that could knot again so easily,
or fray and break instead.

 A piece of my heart © 2002

This song was a long time in coming — years, not days or weeks — but finally formed itself during my American tour in October-November 2002. It is essentially a love song to my family and friends, but barely begins to express what I feel about the many special people in my life, scattered around the world. Incidentally, the child in Scotland is now a young man, a husband and father. [See my song -- later on -- To the Island] The song is on The King’s Well.

There’s a child in the West Isles of Scotland
with eyes like the hue of the sea,
eyelashes reaching to Heaven,
and a soft voice that whispers to me;
and he walks with me still by the seashore,
his trusting hand resting in mine,
and he sits on my knee in the firelight
to sing me his fanciful rhymes.

Chorus:
And a piece of my heart is missing –
I wonder if you understand
that, when we parted with hugging and kissing,
I placed it right in the palm of your hand.

It seems no matter where I go to,
no matter how long the track,
there’s somebody beckoning onward
and someone else urging me back.
My sweet husband, who worries about me;
our daughters, who don’t always speak their heart;
my parents, 10,000 miles further…
my whole family, scattered so far apart.

Musicians who live the world over;
writers and artists who seem to know just how I feel;
so many others who’ve danced in my orbit –
they’re all treasured friendships to me.
And I wonder if life will allow it,
to let our paths cross once again;
or will photographs, letters and memories
be all that is left to us then?

And a piece of my heart is missing –
I wonder if you understand
that, when we parted with hugging and kissing,
it fell right in the palm of your hand.

  Little miracles © 2004

This song is the result of my struggling to deal with the serious illnesses and — in two cases — the premature deaths of dear friends within a few intense months in the summer of 2003. I originally dedicated it — in hope — to Justin Rochkind and Ray Scudero, and to the memories of Catriona MacLean, Jenny Allen, David Nelson and Dennis Galler… Sadly, Justin (18) didn’t make it (RIP, July 2004) and Ray Scudero died in December 2005 (RIP). Ray Fisher also lost his long and gallant battle (August 2007) — RIP. The song is on my live album (see elsewhere on this site) and I’ve just recorded it again for my 10th album, Still Life (2015).

There’s a time for holding back the tears and smiling through the day,
Telling yourself, or someone else, it’s easier this way;
But all too soon there comes a time when reticence won’t do;
When you’ve got to thank those in your life for sharing theirs with you.

I don’t believe in heaven, no I can’t find comfort there;
And I must admit not being sure there’s someone hears my prayers;
I’m not certain it’s important when I’m thinking of a friend:
It’s the memories of times we’ve shared that matter in the end.

And I pray for little miracles to help us through the day;
For life’s gentle, pulsing rhythm to guide us on the way;
For the wisdom and serenity to face the Great Unknown
With head held high and shoulders back, should other hope be flown.

Our vision gets distorted when life’s twisted paths we tread;
The chance slips by unnoticed and the words remain unsaid.
Don’t wait to tell that special friend their smile warms up your heart;
The time to call is now, before one of you must depart.

So what can I hope for as the days go rolling on?
As we pull along together, trying to keep each other strong?
A quiet conversation, a shared glass of wine or two,
And the strength to simply speak my heart before our time is through.

Though I might feel a bit foolish when my clumsy words recall,
I know that I’d regret far more not saying them at all.

And I pray for little miracles to help them through the day;
For life’s gentle, pulsing rhythm to guide them on the way;
For the wisdom and serenity to face the Great Unknown
With head held high and shoulders back, should other hope be flown.

 The sunset  © 2005
for Ray Scudero

Click here to hear an excerpt from this song.

Singer/songwriter/luthier/poet Ray Scudero — my dear friend for 17 years — died in December 2005, after a protracted illness. Driving down to his home to comfort his wife, Mike and I witnessed a spectacular double sunset: just when we thought the light was dying out, it suddenly blazed up again, filling most of the sky with shades of orange, bronze and gold, and bathing us in unexpected warmth. It was deeply moving, comforting and uplifting: it seemed to tell us that Ray was travelling on in a blaze of glory. The line ‘Now the feathered clouds…’ (which became the refrain) came welling up into my throat. Singing this song at the funeral the next day was one of the harder tasks I’ve undertaken. It features on my album A Lone Voice.

You’re on your way at last, my friend,
On a path unknown and long;
And your spirit’s sped afar
From the hearth where you belong;
And my voice calls out ‘fare well’
On this slender thread of song.
Now the feathered clouds in the flaming sky
Are the wings of your freedom.

For you’ve journeyed long and far
On this earth you’ve known so well;
On a boat steered by the stars,
Down roads that few can tell;
With your ear sharply attuned
to the call of life’s clear bell.
And the feathered clouds in the flaming sky
Are the wings of your freedom.

May your smile live in my mem’ry
While your soul soars above pain;
May the friendship we have forged together
In my heart remain;
May I sing your songs with gladness
Till our pathways cross again.
Now the feathered clouds in the flaming sky
Are the wings of your freedom.

 Open house © 2006

for my beautiful cousin Kathy, and in memory of Linda Harter (z”l), who loved this song

One of the things I enjoy about living in Jerusalem is that people are always coming to visit — some for only a few hours, others for a few days. Over the years, our home has come to resemble a railway station: in fact, sometimes it’s more like a ship, with ‘hot bunk’ syndrome. Little-known family become friends, and friends become family. As the song says, ‘This is how it’s meant to be.’ I can’t imagine living any other way. I’ve just recorded this for my tenth album, Still Life (2015).

As spring turns into summer,
She finds herself once more
In a house that’s filled with flurry
At each opening of the door;
As family and friends arrive
For leisure and for fun,
She finds a place for just one more:
There’s room for all who come.

Chorus:

And she looks around the table
At the faces and the smiles;
Hears the laughter and the chatter
Making inches of the miles.
What more could someone ask for?
This is how it’s meant to be,
In a house that’s made for sharing
With gentle company.

When the summer’s burned its flame out
And the autumn fills its place,
And she feels a breeze of comfort
Sighing softly on her face,
The visitors keep coming
And the Holy Days are here;
But nobody can quite believe
They’ve spent another year.

Now the autumn’s for retiring
And the winter takes its turn,
And yet in the hours of darkness
Still her instinct can discern
A promise of renewal
And the pastel green of spring;
For rain can’t depress her spirit
When her heart begins to sing.

 Still life: Onekaka Wharf at noon © 2008

Early in 2008, I visited New Zealand again, to visit family and friends, and give a few concerts. The first of these took place in an almost-legendary spot I’d not visited before: Takaka, on the northern coast of the South Island. The next day, I wandered down to the shore where an abandoned wharf stood, still on sentry duty, a gathering-place for local wild birds. The ‘catcher’ I mention is an oyster-catcher, a pretty black-and-white bird with long orange-red legs and beak. The simple, serene beauty of this bay, the very image of much that I love about my home country, seems to have become etched on my retina. If you think this song echoes with a touch of homesickness… you could be right. I’ve just recorded it for my 10th album, Still Life (2015).

Silver skirt of water;
Chirrup, song and trill;
Steady lap and wave-ride;
Zephyr-breath… then still;

Mountains rise behind me;
Cicadas in the trees;
Smoke curling in the distance,
Dispersed on silent breeze;

A fisherman is waiting,
Line ready, on a stone
As a boat moves out of bayside
And seabird glides alone;

A catcher skims the water,
Alights on pebble shore;
There, ranks of driftwood soldiers
At attention evermore;

Sun glints, then is extinguished
As foam runs smoothly in;
Ripples pattern landward
Like lace billowing in;

A raucous seagull calling;
Gum trees gaze out to sea,
As clouds fill the horizon
And peace descends on me.

And I must leave this haven,
Turn my back on all this calm,
Where the silence, filled with beauty,
Warms my spirit like a balm;

But I’ll take this still life with me
Wheresoever I may roam,
When my feet tread distant highways
But my heart just longs for home.

 

  May to December © 2009

May 21, 2008 has to have been the worst night of my life, so far. I am used to travelling around the world alone, but this ‘adventure’ took the cake. After returning late from central London, I found myself locked-and-chained out of my accommodation: my cousins had thought I was already home and asleep. Because their little girl had been having trouble sleeping, I just didn’t have the heart to ring the doorbell. All was quiet and dark: perhaps they had all managed to fall asleep, for once. I wandered around for a bit, but the spring wind was bitterly cold. Imagine my relief when I found an all-night store. They allowed me to stay till 7 a.m. All joking aside, I hope I never forget the kindness I received that night, or the homeless man who, toward dawn, put everything into perspective. May such a night never happen to you!

I’ve just recorded this for my tenth album, Still Life (2015).

Note: The tune of the verse was an obvious choice: the traditional song One Morning in May; the tune of the chorus and all the lyrics are my own.

One evening, one evening, one evening in May,
As I leave a pub concert for the house where I stay,
After travelling north on the Tube for a while,
I find that I’m in for a bit of a trial;

For the door has been bolted and chained from within;
So even the key’s not enough to get in.
There I stand, there I ponder: should I ring the bell?
But it’s late, house is dark, they’re all sleeping so well

So I mutter and wander around in the cold,
After all my adventures, this one breaks the mold!
At last, here’s a shop with lights blazing full-bore,
So I take a deep breath, pop my head ’round the door:

Hey mister, d’you mind if I rest in your store;
If I pace up and down, or I crouch on the floor;
If I shelter an hour, and then maybe six more;
While I’m waiting for day to be dawning
And I’m watching night turn into morning?

After two hours, the manager brings me a chair,
And although it’s bone-hard, at this point, I don’t care;
I’m so miserable, I could just die where I stand,
But the man’s rather kind as he offers a hand.

After four hours of wretchedness — when will it end!
There’s an offer of tea: I don’t have to pretend
To be grateful for kindness and thoughtfulness here,
For the sweetness and warmth, from my toes to my hair.

Hey, mister, d’you mind if I rest in your store,
Park my weary behind on the shop’s dusty floor?
I could sit here all night and still shiver some more
As the hours creep slowly toward morning,
And I’m waiting for day to be dawning.

Magazines, chocolate bars, bottles of Coke
But after six hours, sister, this is no joke!
I’m still wearily pacing the aisles of the store,
And the wind’s blowing high and chill right through the door.

Then, at six, something happens to alter my mind,
For a man wanders in from the cold, and I find
That he really is homeless, not like me for one night:
Once I get home again, I’ll be all right.

So we smile and we chat, and his sad story might
Lend a sense of perspective to this ghastly night:
I’ve been sheltered with kindness and warmth, unprepared,
But I’ve somewhere to go to: a welcoming bed.

I know it this night, and I hope I’ll remember
How a May night can turn into darkest December.
How easy it is to take comfort for granted,
But the seeds of this knowledge are now firmly planted.

Hey mister, d’you mind if I rest in your store;
If I pace up and down, or I crouch on the floor;
If I shelter an hour, and then maybe six more;
While I’m waiting for day to be dawning
And I’m watching night turn into morning?

 To the Island © 2009

It’s common wisdom that you should never try to go back to any place that you remember fondly: you can never re-create what once was. Nonetheless, it was very important to me to retrace my steps to one of the Western Isles of Scotland, to visit dear friends who had made me a part of their lives back in the summer of 1992. Heart-in-mouth and, this time, husband-at-my-side, I returned in 2009. Well, it turns out that — sometimes — you really can go back. For the MacDonalds of Ath Mhor and the Smiths of Clachan, with abiding affection. This song features on my album A Lone Voice.

Note: The Gaelic word lochan denotes a small loch.

After years of old stories and warm memories
Of the song of the wind as it brushes the sea,
There’s a phone-call that sets new arrangements in train,
Though they say that it’s foolish to go back again.

For time has been passing like arrows in flight:
There are new tales to tell in the gathering of night,
So the bonds of affection will always remain;
Though they say that it’s foolish to go back again.

There are smiles in the doorway to beckon me in,
And warm hugs of welcome from all.
It’s no wonder I’ve wanted so long to return
Where the kindness of friends ever holds me in thrall.

There’s the peat and the heather and the wild geese on wing,
Silvery light on the lochan that the evening will bring;
‘Twixt the clouds and the sunshine, there’s a moment of rain;
And they say that it’s foolish to go back again.

…’Twixt the clouds and the rainbows, there’s sunshine again.
I don’t care if it’s foolish: I’ve come back again.

 

Medieval woodcut; detail from Horae, published in Paris in 1506

Medieval woodcut; detail from Horae, published in Paris in 1506