The Art of Love

In the 1950s, Wanda Jackson was a pioneering female rocker who recorded a number of classic singles and she enjoyed the mentoring of Elvis Presley who encouraged her to branch out into the fast-developing rockabilly genre, but none of her records became hits.  Wanda Jackson wasn’t afraid to step outside the prim confines of a woman’s place in pop and cross into rock and roll singing with wild, reckless abandon.  At age 73, Jackson mounted a comeback with the album The Party Ain’t Over (2011), which was produced by Jack White of the White Stripes, and she followed that with Unfinished Business (2012).  In 2019 Jackson announced that she was retiring from performing, citing “health and safety” issues, and it was later revealed that she had suffered a stroke the previous year.  Wanda Jackson was called the Queen of Rockabilly and she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.

Ovid the Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus wrote a guide on the art of seduction in his three-book series The Art of Love.  This playfully instructed women in the art of seduction and men in the skills essential for mastering the art of romantic conquest.  On Bob Dylan’s 32nd studio album Modern Times, which was released in 2006, he references this work by Ovid in his song ‘Thunder on the Mountain’.  Modern Times became Dylan’s first #1 album in the U.S. since Desire which he released 30 years earlier in 1976.  At age 65, Dylan became the oldest living person at the time to have an album enter the Billboard charts at #1.  The record didn’t last that long, as when Neil Diamond was 67 in 2008 his Home Before Dark album reached #1.  Modern Times was self-produced by Dylan under the pseudonym “Jack Frost”, and it received acclaim, but also sparked some debate over its uncredited use of choruses and arrangements from older songs, as well as many lyrical lines taken from the work of 19th-century poet Henry Timrod.

Dylan said that he remembered seeing Alicia Keys at the 2001 Grammy awards, when Keys was a five-times winner with her album Songs in A Minor and Dylan won Best Contemporary Folk Album with Love and Theft.  Dylan said that he was on the show with her, but he didn’t meet her.  Although he said to himself, “There’s nothing about that girl I don’t like.”  Keys was 39 years his junior and it appears that Dylan must have done some research on her discovering that she raised in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York.  Bob Dylan and Jack White struck up a friendship in 2007 and when Jack White produced Wanda Jackson’s 2011 album The Party Ain’t Over which peaked at #17 on Top Rock Albums.  White suggested that Jackson should record the Bob Dylan rockabilly song ‘Thunder on the Mountain’.  Jackson replaced Dylan’s Alicia Keys reference with a more appropriate Jerry Lee Lewis and his hometown of Ferriday, Louisiana.

Thunder on the mountain, fires on the moon
There’s a ruckus in the alley and the sun will be here soon
Today’s the day, gonna grab my trombone and blow
Well, there’s hot stuff here and it’s everywhere I go

I was thinkin’ ‘bout Alicia Keys, couldn’t keep from crying
When she was born in Hell’s Kitchen, I was living down the line
I’m wondering where in the world Alicia Keys could be
I been looking for her even clear through Tennessee

Feel like my soul is beginning to expand
Look into my heart and you will sort of understand
You brought me here, now you’re trying to run me away
The writing’s on the wall, come read it, come see what it say

Thunder on the mountain, rolling like a drum
Gonna sleep over there, that’s where the music coming from
I don’t need any guide, I already know the way
Remember this, I’m your servant both night and day

The pistols are poppin’ and the power is down
I’d like to try somethin’ but I’m so far from town
The sun keeps shinin’ and the North Wind keeps picking up speed
Gonna forget about myself for a while, gonna go out and see what others need

I’ve been sitting down studying the art of love
I think it will fit me like a glove
I want some real good woman to do just what I say
Everybody got to wonder what’s the matter with this cruel world today

Thunder on the mountain rolling to the ground
Gonna get up in the morning walk the hard road down
Some sweet day I’ll stand beside my king
I wouldn’t betray your love or any other thing

Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I’ll recruit my army from the orphanages
I been to St. Herman’s church and I’ve said my religious vows
I’ve sucked the milk out of a thousand cows

I got the pork chops, she got the pie
She ain’t no angel and neither am I
Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes
I’ll say this, I don’t give a damn about your dreams

Thunder on the mountain heavy as can be
Mean old twister bearing down on me
All the ladies of Washington scrambling to get out of town
Looks like something bad gonna happen, better roll your airplane down

Everybody’s going and I want to go too
Don’t wanna take a chance with somebody new
I did all I could and I did it right there and then
I’ve already confessed, no need to confess again

Gonna make a lot of money, gonna go up north
I’ll plant and I’ll harvest what the earth brings forth
The hammer’s on the table, the pitchfork’s on the shelf
For the love of God, you ought to take pity on yourself

7 thoughts on “The Art of Love

  1. I love Wanda Jackson’s music…her voice is one of a kind. Didn’t know about the Dylan connection with this song.

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