Stella Blue in the Morning

A Tip of the Cap to Stan the Man
March 5, 2014

Stella Blue in the Morning

I usually wake up with a song in my head. I don’t know why. I don’t think it means I’m overly happy, because I’m generally kinda grumpy pre-coffee. But these songs sneak out from some subconscious place in my memory and whisper to me almost every morning.

Often it’s just a snatch of a song—one resonant line of lyric or a short section of melody that has wormed into my ear. Other times it’s a song I remember completely, or a chorus, or a particular rhythym. And often it’s a song I haven’t heard or thought about for a long period of time.

Yesterday I woke up hearing, of all things, the opening verse and the counter-riff from the Cheech and Chong song in the movie Up in Smoke, where Cheech plays guitar in the pink tutu and Mickey Mouse ears….

My mama’s talkin to me

She tell me how to live

buh du dum, buh du dum, bum bum


But I don’t listen to her

cuz my head is like a sieve

buh du dum, buh du dum, bum bum


I have not heard that song—or been stoned enough to want to hear that song—in many, many years. But there it was yesterday morning as my feet hit the carpet. And, of course, this leads to a session on YouTube, tracking down a video of the original and wondering how that stupid thing crawled so far into my brain in the first place. Must have been the tutu.

Today, Stella Blue came to visit. It’s a beautiful early 70s Grateful Dead tune, a slow, almost dirge-like song with lyrics that are wistful and sad and evocative, full of poetic lines that seem to suggest a story without ever telling one, thereby letting the listener hear their own.

The chorus is not really a chorus, but simply a refrain repeating the name Stella Blue as if the song is sung for some love lost down the years, in the way that the wandering of our hearts and our bodies sometimes leaves love beside the roads we think we should be on.

I woke up hearing the opening verse:

All the years combine

They melt into a dream

A broken angel sings

From a guitar


And then the bridge came to mind:


I’ve stayed in every blue light cheap hotel

Can’t win for trying

Dust off those rusty strings just one more time

Gonna make them shine


Now, I’ve heard this song at least several times a year, every year, for the past forty-some years. It’s a five-star song in my itunes (for those of you who use the itunes rating system). But somehow, today, maybe in my pre-coffee vulnerability, it moved me even more than usual, and I wanted to write about it and share it.


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