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  • Rich Kassirer

Lyrically Speaking: Bonnie Raitt's 'Too Long at the Fair'

Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt

I found Bonnie Raitt’s “Give It Up”  among a bunch of albums that my Mom had in her condo, shortly after she and my Dad divorced when I was about 16. The albums were significant because when they “amicably” split, one of the things they involved the kids in was the Big Record Split-Up, you know, who was going to get which album.

For some reason, I remember being the ringleader (I’ll have to ask my sisters if this was really the case!). I would hold up an album and there’d be an amicable debate before the victor got the spoils. There was Bob Dylan’s “Freewheelin’,” there was a Mamas & Papas album and one by Phil Ochs… very ’60s folky, and looking back it now, very cool.

When I found “Give It Up” among my Mom’s collection, I couldn’t remember it from the Big Record Split-Up and I had never heard of Bonnie, but she was awfully cute on the cover, very young, very hippie-chick-ish, which I was pretty into at 16. So I grabbed the album and immediately made a cassette of it (yep, those were the days!).

Her voice immediately struck me as otherworldly. She could hit the high notes, bend her voice so beautifully and make you totally believe the way she was feeling in the lyrics. And did I mention that she could really play guitar?? I found that out later, but don’t think that didn’t just make her even hotter!

The song that really got to me was “Too Long at the Fair.” There were other more rockin’ and more funky songs on the album and the whole record is really great, but she sounds so tired when she sings “Won’t You come and take me home?/I’ve been too long at the fair/And, Lord, I just can’t stand it anymore.”  “Too long at the fair” just sounded to me like, wow, you must be really beaten down. I could just totally relate to be feeling like that.

What I didn’t know at the time, was that she didn’t pen the song. It was written by a guy named Joel Zoss. Here’s Wikipedia’s take on how Bonnie ended up recording the song: “Early in the 1970s Zoss performed at Club 47 (now Passim) in Cambridge. While he was onstage, Bonnie’s manager was in the club trying to get a booking for her. The manager heard Zoss sing “Too Long at the Fair.” After the show the manager asked for a tape of the song to play for Bonnie.”

There are so many lines in the song I’d love to know their meaning, but that’s part of the greatness of it: “Well, you can give my soul to Abraham/Give my soul to Saul/Give my bones to Canada/My teeth they don’t hurt at all.”

If you haven’t heard “Give It Up,” please track it down. I believe it’s Bonnie’s best album ever. She is someone who I really don’t think gets enough credit… maybe because she didn’t write many of her own songs, but she’s an amazing singer and an amazing guitar player and deserves to be heard.

Too Long at the Fair by Bonnie Raitt

Jesus cried, wept and died I guess he went up to heaven I’ve been downtown such a long long time I’ll never make it home by seven

Won’t you come and take me home I’ve been too long at the fair And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore

I went down to Jason’s Walked till my feet were sore But I never knew what laughing was Till you walked out the door

Won’t you come and take me home I’ve been too long at the fair And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore

You can give my soul to Abraham You can give my soul to Saul And give my bones to Canada My teeth they don’t hurt at all I don’t know who made the highway But I guess that’s just my pride And I have heard the Prince of Darkness On his charger ride

The silver blade is gleaming The scales are in his hand I swear the night is falling Don’t you lose another man

Won’t you come and take me home I’ve been too long at the fair And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore

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