Unless of Course You Die

Two centuries from now this love song will probably be attributed to Edward Gorey, but Carol Denney credits it to an airport layover and sleep deprivation.“ There were typhoons, flooding and lightning strikes all around Pittsburgh, so although we were in time for our flight there was a long delay before we could get off the ground, where a week of revelry and very little sleep made things a little surreal for me, but we had to stay awake or miss our flight. I kept laughing out loud at how funny it was that I had bought a present for someone but loved it so much that I couldn’t bear to part with it, and began singing little lines of this song about it to my banjo-playing friend Pam Derks, who kept laughing as I kept singing verses of a send-up of flowery pastoral songs. I kept cracking up and scribbling on the back of an envelope all the way to California.

“I didn’t get back until time to go to work the next morning, so it really had some surreal time to hang around in my head and finish itself. The humor is rather dark.”

To go with the song Carol has also made a “crankie,” a roll of hand-drawn pictures that winds slowly across a little window with candles in the back. “We did a couple of them in West Virginia and called them ‘crankies’ since you crank the paper across by hand. It’s post-TV!” In the folk tradition, she has put a copy of the crankie on YouTube at

The song makes a great sing-along: it needs little or no accompaniment, it’s easy for the audience to pick up, and there’s laughter as each stanza is followed by another with even less redeeming social value.

Score image
I’d like to buy you everything,
A drink to toast your health,
A silken scarf, a diamond ring,
But I want them for myself.

I want them for myself,
I want them for myself,
A silken scarf, a diamond ring,
I want them for myself.

You’re such a dear companion,
We have such lovely fun,
I’d like to spend my life with you,
Unless I find the one.

Unless I find the one…

But if I don’t I’ll be your wife,
At least I’d like to try,
And stay beside you all my life,
Unless of course you die.

Unless of course you die…

And if perhaps you chance to die
And soar on angel wings,
I’ll weep and mourn, of course, but I
Would like to have your things.

Would like to have your things…

And if I cannot have your things
My grief will deeper be,
And so I’ll take them anyway
When no one else can see.

When no one else can see…

And if perchance I mess things up
And someone catches me,
I’ll make arrangements so that they
Can keep you company.

Can keep you company,
Can keep you company,
I’ll make arrangements so that they
Can keep you company.

Like the nun who sings to none

Doris Williams sings this on her new CD Renaissance and Beyond (reviewed in this issue), adapting South Bay guitarist Doug Young’s tune “Laurel Mill” to a poem written by her mother. (We’ve set it in E as a favor to guitarists; Doris uses a lute in F and adds a wordless vocal introduction.) For more about the CD and Doris’s performance schedule see her website, See Doug’s website for tablature (, and a recording (

Score image

Like the nun who sings to none    but with her mute prayer
leaves behind her   as the lute
a silent ayre —
where none will name the name …
with your art of memory and … care,
nor you the bird who cannot know my heart,
nor … the nun of robes and rosary –
Nor yet the gentle lute that cannot bear
my song.
… yet nothing knowing, know
to ease my pain.
… singer, remain.

The folknik song pages are lovingly produced by John Kelly and Barbara Millikan. John Kelly produced the song pages for this issue.

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