"Let 'Em Get Away" (The Laws)

This unreleased song is called "Let 'Em Get Away," from back in the day. Thank you to Marshall Hjertsted for the video. 

Life is so funny.  I wanted to talk about the mid-life crisis in this blog today.  How I tried to anticipate it, how I tried to believe that I could escape it by just doing the things people bemoan that they didn't do.  By and large, I did those things, I still do, and yet...I have to wonder if I did it right.  The midlife crisis has not left me unscathed.  

It was taking too long to say what I just said.  I was boring myself, so I scrapped it.  Instead, I went in search of some kind of oldie but goodie video to make up for the lack of a Collaboration and Creativity blog.  I was previewing it to make sure there were no wardrobe malfunctions or anything, and it struck me...this song is about a mid-life crisis.  

When I wrote it, I had just released the album, "Every Soul Grows to the Light."  Epic changes in work and life were afoot, the monthly concerts at FitzGerald's had just begun, and I needed new songs. I would start haikuing within a month of this performance. 

This song was commissioned by a dear friend as part of the Indiegogo campaign for the album.  I'd been thinking about him, and mulling ideas over in my mind, when I received a jury summons.  Around that same time, I had occasion to be driving past the courthouse on California Avenue on the West side of Chicago.  In the way they do when you're not paying attention, the stars began to align and the song began to write itself. 

You would never know my friend's name, and that's the way he wants it. He has changed countless lives in the course of his career as an attorney, but that's not how he started out in life. 

He had a a rough upbringing on the South side of Chicago in a family with too many kids and not enough money.  He remembers a very clear intent to mortally wound his brother, but his hand was stayed by an older relative. A few years later, despite the devoted mentorship of his girlfriend's father, he ran afoul of that family as well as his own, and got into the kind of trouble that would keep someone from being gainfully employed later in life. Only because the laws were less strict than they are now was he able to pay his debt to society, excel in law school, and become a highly respected attorney.  He has the heart of a lion, but the only reason I even know him is that he got away.  

He always wondered if instead of becoming an attorney, he should have been a judge.  Maybe he should have, he says.  He wonders. 

Even if your circumstances were less dire than my friend's, somehow or other, you have to keep the lights on and a roof over your head.  I've often thought that the necessity of having to work is an overall net positive.  Every day, if at times begrudgingly, I get down on my knees and thank God that I "had to" learn how to do something I didn't want to learn how to do, largely because of my day job.  

The hope is that all the hours you spend at your day job enriching yourself are also in some way, shape or form making the world a better place.  

My friend, I gathered over the years of our friendship, at times questioned whether in the end, his contributions would net to the positive for the world, not just for himself and his family. 

And you know what?  I wonder the same thing about myself. 

As I drove past the courthouse on California Avenue, then down Lake Street past OPRF where my daughter went to school, turning left on East Avenue going past Fenwick where my son was a student, I was thinking about what it means to "get away."  Those times I'd drawn a hard line, did I do right?  Or how about those times I'd been lenient?  Did I help or did I hurt?  All the while, the song was writing itself in the back of my mind. 

And suddenly, we're back to the midlife crisis. 

Did I do it right?  I don't know.  I sure hope so.  But even if I had done everything differently, I'd still probably wonder. 

And that's the jumping off point for this song.  The judge, evaluating his life, wonders if he's done good, or if he's just done well. 

I guess what comes to me is this: whoever you are, even if you live your life to the limits of your integrity and do your very best in every arena, you're going to make mistakes.  You're still going to -- make that HAVE TO -- wonder if you did it right.   

There is no way around the midlife crisis, only through it. 

So to my friend, to myself, and perhaps to you, rest easier.  Even if you had done it differently, you'd still be wondering.  

In case you're interested, here are the lyrics. 

Let 'Em Get Away (The Laws) 
by Jenny Bienemann 

13 years old 
standing over my brother 
with a rake 
had him pinned to the kitchen table 
the table breaks 
my father runs in 
says "this isn't the way!" 
my brother lied but my dad said 
"Let him get away."  

At 57 
I preside over them 
in court 
sometimes they come 
before me, heavy 
with remorse 
when their lawyer runs in 
and he carries the day 
that's when the law says  
"Let them get away."  

Now there's the laws of God 
and the laws of man 
I get paid to serve one 
when I'm on the stand 
As to the laws of God, well 
only He can tell 
if we've done good 
or if we've just 
done well 

18 years old 
walking over to see 
my girlfriend's dad 
couldn't admit I'd done 
what we both knew I had 
My girlfriend runs in 
and she pleads my case 
he said the consequence 
was mine to face 

Now there's the laws of God 
and the laws of men 
we do things  
we're too young to understand 
As to the laws of God, well 
only She can say 
if we've done good 
when they get 
away

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