Andy May - Room for Roots

The Harvest

©Lauren LeCroy MayAndy May (Swift River Music/BMI)

Behind the Song

Lauren: This lyric is one of the very few that more-or-less presented itself to me, fully-formed. I wrote it in an afternoon, but the story had been percolating for a while. In the fall of 1984, I returned to the U.S. from 2 years in Burkina Faso, West Africa, with the Peace Corps. The Midwest, breadbasket of the nation, was still reeling from the effects of the 1983 drought, the worst in decades, and I had been reading a lot about that. Family farms were going bankrupt right and left, land that had been in many families for generations was being sold off, and the impact on peoples’ lives struck me deeply. With imagery of thirsty land still fresh in my mind from dry-season African savannah, it took one final magazine article to galvanize the idea into a lyric.

Several years later when I started co-writing with Andy, this lyric was one of the first he chose to score.

Andy: Lauren’s lyric for “The Harvest” is really a short story, and this song was one of our first collaborations. I produced a recording of Rick Lee singing it back in the early 1990’s, but at that time, I found the lyric very difficult to sing myself because of its strong emotional content. When I did begin performing the song a few years later, it took on even deeper meaning for me as I became the teller of this tale and experienced the strong effect it had on my audience.




The Harvest
©Lauren LeCroy MayAndy May (Swift River Music/BMI)

Well that was one mighty poor summer
The sun, hell-bent, takin’ its toll
‘Til nothin’ was growin’ but sorrow
And Daddy was sure lookin’ old
When Mama said, “Pride don’t feed children”
Daddy told her, “Dreams die on the dole —
A few more beans in a boy’s belly
Ain’t no kinda trade for his soul.”

And me, I would pray I was dreamin’
‘Til I fell asleep dreamin’ of rain
And each mornin’ that demon sun beamin’
Reached in and woke me again

With each blazin’ day dawnin’ bluer
There was that much less green on the land
Come July, and a fire swept the valley –
It seemed the whole county was damned
No one had an answer for Daddy
When he’d say he could not understand
If the Lord had found cause to forsake us
Why he’d also forsake this good land

‘Cause nothin’ was bloomin’ but sorrow
And the harvest time nearer each day
No one spoke much of tomorrow
Nobody knew just what to say

Now it’s ten years I’m workin’ for wages
Woulda killed Daddy, livin’ this way
Buildin’ other men’s dreams in the city
Gettin’ nothin’ but greenbacks for pay
And the folks here get stacked up like cord-wood
For feedin’ that fast, hungry flame
That burns day and night in this hard land
That don’t come alive in the rain

Daddy, sometimes it feels like I’m dreamin’
I could never have left that old farm
Close my eyes and I still hear larks singin’
And smell the new hay in the barn

But that was one mighty poor summer…