“Left Behind” by John Hall and Roger Bourland

February 18, 2006

“Left Behind” was the middle movement of HIDDEN LEGACIES, a 7 movement set for four synthesizers, bass, drums, soloists, and men’s chorus, commissioned by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Jon Bailey, Director. What is not heard on this performance (Live at the Wiltern, 1992) is the choreography. 2-stepping was very big then. My partner and I were half-decent 2-steppers in those days. I wanted to incorporate it into the piece somehow. It was John Hall that juxtaposed a haunting lyric about the desolation of loneliness — being left behind, and the guilt that that often holds — with the bouncy life-goes-on country 2-step in the music. During the first part of the song, couples peal away from the chorus, two by two and begin 2-stepping around the stage. By the time the instrumental arrives, all collected dancers participate in a flashy line dance. When the singers comes back in, one by one, the dance partners “leave” their partners, leaving them alone, dancing alone, until at the very end, only one man is left dancing alone.

There is a “you-had-to-be-there” factor in this movement. The greatest impact this song had was in context of the rest of the 7-movement work. Excerpting it here, diminishes that effect greatly, but I found a tape of this historic performance and had to share it with whomever would be interested.

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GMCLA, Jon Bailey, conductor. Live at the Wiltern, March 1992.

Left Behind

One man, solitary, a hard weight to carry;
Doors are closed, tears are cried,
There’s no feeling left inside.
With no map and no guide you’re just
Left Behind.

Shadows of former selves beckon and call,
Dusty and shaky they try not to fall.
Like books on the shelves of a spare bedroom wall
Unloved and unread, not living not dead, they’re just
Left Behind.

Left Behind.
Its hard to consider
Without sounding bitter,
Feelin’ lonely, cast aside and
Left Behind.

And what of those people we don’t even know
Who give of themselves and try not to show
How short the time is when it’s your time to go and they’re just
Left Behind.

And here’s to the girls who remember to care
Our lesbian sisters who nurtured us where
Damn few would follow the pain that we share and be
Left Behind.

So let’s give a toast to the ones left behind,
They’re often forgotten, dismissed from our mind.
The tears that they’ve cried have left them half blind
‘Cause the pain that they feel is the very worst kind. They’re just
Left Behind.

© 1992 by John Hall and Roger Bourland. yrmusic.com

These memories came back to me as I revise this song for impressario, author and conductor, Stan Hill, and the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus who will be performing it in the Grand Old Opry this summer.

2 stepping

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

pucks_soul February 18, 2006 at 7:09 pm

Thank you Roger for sharing this, you put words to a human condition that few people will discuss let alone sing about. I was very moved by the lyrics and then completely lost it when I played the audio. I remember when the AIDS Quilt was touring and I saw it in Albuquerque, this song reminded me of that day, of how many lives were touched by the people represented by the panels in the quilt and that they were “left behind”. The staging of this song must have a very dramatic impact on the audience. I am sure you have heard all of this before, but my wish is that the reality of this song eventually will hold no truth in the present.

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