Long Road

Simplicity doesn’t always mean simple.  “Long Road” accomplishes with a small handful of chords and clean, direct writing, what armies of rock bands often strive for but ultimately never grasp: sheer beauty.  I remember a critic’s quote from years ago that claimed that for all of Pearl Jam’s success and formidableness as rock band, it had never produced a song that was truly pretty. Whether or not that was true at the time, it is my belief that even the staunchest critics/dismissers of Pearl Jam, if pressed, could acknowledge that “Long Road” is indeed pretty, maybe profoundly so.  It’s also my belief that the very reason the song is so lovely and moving is that is doesn’t appear to be trying hard to that way. It simply is.

It’s no coincidence that “Long Road” has quietly infiltrated film and television, from the gorgeous rendition with the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack to an episode of Scrubs, probably without most casual listeners realizing who they were hearing. The song has also been covered by Michael Stipe, among others, and was performed by Vedder, McCready, and Neil Young as part of the post-9/11 tribute concert, America: A Tribute To Heroes.  It was performed than with good reason: the song is an enormous comfort.  Sung from the point of view of a dying man (or woman), “Long Road” bravely, though not without some sadness, confronts the inevitability of death. Abetted by a ringing D chord and Neil Young’s mournfully sweet pump organ, Vedder’s elegy is joins “Come Back”, “Man of the Hour”, and others in its basic theme, but ultimately resonates, at least for me, on an even truer level.


~ by Michael on August 10, 2007.

6 Responses to “Long Road”

  1. I watched the original Tribute to Heroes telethon when it aired. It was an extraordinary television event. The emotion from all of the performers just flowed across the television screen, and though they were miles away, they seemed right next to me. In that moment LONG ROAD felt like the most beautiful thing that I had ever heard. Today, whenever I hear it, I think of that performance. And the feeling of missing everyone who had ever touched my life.

    “I have wished for so long
    How I wish for you today.”

  2. C13, can we do SWEET LEW again? These last three songs have such emotional resonance for me that I’m becoming a maudlin mess.

  3. How ’bout “Bee Girl”?

  4. I remember the Tribute to Heroes event. That was a crazy, emotional time. EV, Neil and Mike performed this song perfectly. I know I’m biased, but I thought it was by far the most beautiful and, more importantly, calming performance of the event.

    For my money, “Long Road” is indeed the prettiest song PJ has ever recorded and it is my favorite show opener by far.

  5. I think that the ‘America: Tribute to Heroes’ is my favorite performance of this song as well.

    I also love the version C13 mentioned with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

  6. Long Road opened the Barcelona show in 2000. Under the influence, and to the delight of my sister and a friend with us, I started crying. Like I said in Marker in the Sand, the hopefulness, and beautifulness(!), of the line, “the sun is setting, the sun will rise another day.” Goosebumps now just hearing it in my head. The hopefulness of Pearl Jam’s music seems to be what has stuck with me this weekend. Hope. What a word, and the motto of my home state!

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