Next of Kin

Song Notes

TK/Joe Henry

©1992

–This song is fairly autobiographical as well, but most of the lyric was written by Joe Henry. When he gave it to me I was stunned at how strongly I related to it. I didn’t know Joe’s story at the time, but it turned out he and I had a lot in common.

As I began to set his words to music I was so completely drawn in that I began to feel as if they were my own. I added some lines and altered some others to make it even more so, but I’m afraid that made it less satisfying for Joe. We disagreed pretty strongly about this version that I recorded, and I’m sorry to say we never reconciled our differences.

It’s a tough thing when collaborators have strong feelings that don’t mesh, but given our backgrounds, maybe it was unavoidable for me and Joe. I do love this song, but it’s still so close to old hurt places that it’s difficult for me to perform.

My old man was next of kin
Next to all he left behind
He raced along the Gulf Coast wind
A step ahead of summertime

My mother’s grace was summer then
And kept the heart of winter warm
She tried to hold him closer in
But my old man went racing on

Looking for somewhere he’d been
Searching for his next of kin
Down a road that has no end
Searching for his next of kin

And when December’s shadow fell
It might have turned his heart around
But if it did he’d never tell
Why he set out for higher ground

Looking for somewhere he’d been
Searching for his next of kin
Through a glass that called him in
Searching for his next of kin

And if she knew the reason why
She never breathed a word to me
But sister must have known too well
He let us down like fallen leaves

The seasons took him on their wings
His past was just a backward thing
His song a line of hollow sounds
And only he was listening

Perhaps my son would feel this way
About his daddy lost somewhere
If my son had ever been
A song can’t be your next of kin

Yes maybe he would think of me
And maybe he would sing our song
For all the sons who’ve ever been
Paying for their fathers’ sins

Father here I go again
Out the way you left us then
Looking for a way back in
Searching for my next of kin
Searching for my next of kin
Searching for my next of kin

words & music: Tom Kimmel & Joe Henry
©1992 Marada Music/Drala Music (admin by Criterion Music Corp)/Global Music (admin by Chrysalis Music)/Cool Hand Music (ASCAP)

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