Barber Jim

song written and performed by John Richter

He come from West Virginia
Oh, such a long ride
On the back of that Harley
sat his pretty young bride
He said we’re going to Indy
Mrs. Barber Jim, yeah
But that’s where it ends
Yeah, Barber Jim

I walked into the door
He said sit down Johnny,
I’ll cut your hair some more
what do you think
about that baseball score
Light up a smoke
and have a joke

Come on over tonight
gonna put some burgers
on that grill
Mrs. Jim gonna make
that cucumber salad, yeah
you know, I grow em in the back
my daddy taught me that

Tell me Johnny,
who’s that guy watchin’ me
I think he’s been ’round since three
and he sure is scaring me –

Old Jim he left for a while
worried his wife won’t stick around,
missed his uncle
went West Virginia town
never said goodbye.

Never said goodbye,
never said goodbye…
Jim took his own life.
Now I see a Harley,
I see Jim and his wife…
Ridin’ to West Virginia

Many years ago i worked for the Indianapolis Police Department where I kept a kept a flat-top haircut, in the barbers a lot and I met Jim, who was new to Indy and was a really nice guy.  We became friends over a couple of years, got to know him pretty well, dined with Jim and his wife a few times.  But one day I suspected Jim had some mental problems because he seemed like he was turning a little paranoid of people following him.  The last time I saw Jim he told me his Uncle had passed and he needed to get back to West Virginia to be with his dad, who I think was a having a grieving spell.  And I never saw Jim again.  One day, a few months later I heard a 10-Zero come over the police radio while I was just rolling around the district and the address sounded familiar.  10-Zero is code for dead person, suspicious.  I wasn’t on the run but drove by to see why it sounded so familiar.  The other officers were already on scene and I could see Jim’s wife on the front lawn, just as she collapsed, sitting with her head between her knees.  Jim had taken his own life…  Words can’t describe.  But this is my song – if it describes how I feel, I don’t know…  But it is what it is.

© 2015 John Allen Richter


About johnallenrichter

I am an aspiring Poet and adorer of life, a conqueror of nothing. However I am a champion curator of truth and friendship and hold both of those things most dearly to my heart. Welcome to my mind's eye. I hope you will enjoy what you may find and please know that you have a friend here. View all posts by johnallenrichter

10 responses to “Barber Jim

  • willowdot21

    It is so sad that people who look so normal and happy on the outside are suffering in torment ! If only we could spot this and help them before they take the desperate measures!

  • Mark Kerstetter

    I like this heartfelt lyric, the details, the cucumbers…. The last stanza is really good, the final image of the couple riding away….

  • sonniq

    One thing you have in spades is “heart”. Part of the song, you almost spoke it instead of sung it. It reminded me of an Elvis Presley song ( can’t remember the title. It’s stuck in a file folder in the back of my brain.) But for quite awhile he spoke the lyrics. I remember reading once where the producer was against him doing that. He didn’t think the fans would like it, but Elvis did it anyway, and it became a big hit. I think sometimes speaking the words are more heartfelt because you aren’t trying to speak them in a rhythm. It just comes from the heart against the music chords in the background..

    I teach piano. There are many piano teachers on Youtube that would show you some interesting chord progressions that would expand what you already know. After learning these chords it would open up many more possibilities of melodies to put your words to.

    • johnallenrichter

      Thanks Sonni.. I would certainly love to be a singer, though it’s not really in the cards for me. (Though I love singing and have done it all my life.) I’m a writer, and until a couple of years ago I only wrote poetry. Well, I tried to write songs as a teenager but became discouraged because of my lack of musical ability. You play and write poetry so beautifully. I think you have that rare quality of being able to express what’s inside of your heart. I listened to your most recent recording last night and I have to tell you if there is a way to capture emotion through piano keys, you have done it. I felt that instead of a song I was listening to an intensely beautiful, and very sad saga…. I’ve been around the world and in places where I didn’t have a good mastery of the local language. In situations like that I’ve found that we don’t communicate verbally, so much. What I would see – while talking to people for whatever reason, can you tell me where to find a bus, or is there a Gasthouse somewhere near, is their soul, and it’s a soul on soul thing, from the eyes pleading to understand, eager to help, frustratingly needing to help – in short, just the human soul, the beautiful, raw, naked human soul. And it’s soul on soul communication. That’s how your piano playing seems to me. I don’t speak keys, but I can sure understand them….. As for myself, I’ve learned 6 or 7 chords and practiced until my fat fingers don’t show up too much when I switch between them. And other times I’ve spent days learning someone else’s popular song, verbatim, only to find in the end I am not that person, and can not sing like him or her. Right now I’m practicing the 3-2 method for major chords and 2-3 method for minor chords… (3 keys between first and third finger – 2 keys between third and fifth finger…) If I can become comfortable with playing that way that’s all I’ll need. I’m a songwriter who can’t sing…. God’s irony, I guess…

      • sonniq

        I’m not sure what that method is. But i could explain in easy English how to find the right chords in in each key and know what black keys to use. It is all simple math. once you understand the formula the light bulb will go on.

      • johnallenrichter

        You know what? You’re on Sonni! I like you. If you think you can teach an old beast like me how to play soothing music, I’m game… I think that is just what the doctor ordered… Tell me how to sign up. Remember though, I’m a gub’ment worker so I don’t have stacks of cash – else I’d pay you to play these songs for me!

        Anyway, math is what the numbering system guy told me. You simply put 3 keys between your thumb key and middle finger key, and then skip two keys between the middle finger key and your pinky key. ie, A, C#, E – which is the A major right? If you follow that pattern without worrying about key color you will hit a major chord anywhere on the keyboard. And then he said minor chords are skip two and three, vice-versa. It makes sense to me but I’m not any kind of musician…

  • sonniq

    John, this is a piece of music I wrote and recorded. It is called “Sadness”. I was was feeling very sad when I wrote it, and the poem as well, The situation is real. I didn’t write them with the intention of putting them together, but maybe that is an option. I don’t really “write ” the music. Everything is improvised. I record as I play. A tangible form of my feelings. I might try laying a track of the words on top of the music with maybe a track of some underlying bass notes to carry it through or even a complete new track. This is the post where you can find it. Since you also write what is in your heart I would like to know what you think? There are other posts on both of my blogs that have music tracks.

    • johnallenrichter

      Hi Sonni… That’s pretty much what I do. I am no where near as talented as you are with those keys, and my singing is phenomenally terrible, but it’s inside of me. What I discovered recently is that – though I’ve been writing poetry all of my life – writing songs is completely different. They do not come from the same place. And I’ve always said that I don’t know where poetry comes from – I can’t take credit for it because it just appears on my paper, and now computer screen. But I know it doesn’t come from where my songs come from. My poems are not songs, and my songs are not poems. When I sit at the keyboard and strike a few chords, and just let the words fall out – they just come out and make the song. Of course I know its about something inside of me, like the song I just wrote tonight, Good Ole Blind Joe, about a mentally challenged blind man who lived in my childhood neighborhood. Now if I wrote a poem about Joe it would talk about his whiskers, (His mother shaved him but only about every three or four days) and his very certain odor, not bad, it was just Joe. I’d write about his blonde flat-top hair and the red sunburned skin he’d get in the summertime because he never knew when he was burning. But those things don’t matter in my song. Those are just the physical things we find in this very physical life. Songs don’t care about that. Songs care about love. And I loved Joe, because Joe loved life, and me, and talking to every neighborhood kid on that sidewalk corner everyday. He loved his momma, who would describe what’s on the TV screen for him as he listened along. It’s not about the sidewalk or his house or the TV…. It’s about what’s inside of Joe… And that piece of him that’s inside of me. And it’s got to come out. I read your poem about 20 minutes ago and I have to tell you this: that’s not really a poem. It’s a song, at least in my world. Because there is nothing of this physical world in it. It is complete love. And beautiful. I didn’t understand your reference to your daughters happier days, but I’m so sorry if that poem was inspired by by what I think may be such an incredible loss as that… Thank you so much for spending your time here and inspiring me too…

      • sonniq

        I understand – about where it comes from – this place deep inside. I write music like you write poetry. It just “comes out” of my fingers. I get a feeling – an urge- to play music. sometimes it is because I’m emotional about something. So I plug my piano into my computer, close my eyes, and just start playing. Years ago I dreamed of writing beautiful music. I did write a lot of music, instrumental and songs, but I played around a structure and time signature. But after having a liver transplant over two years ago, when I was well enough to play, something changed. I was alive. I let the structure go and stopped “trying” to write music. After decades of writing and teaching my fingers knew technically what to do so I sat back and let my fingers express how I felt. When I’d play it back later I really didn’t remember what I played. If I had not recorded it, it would be gone. I was no longer playing to impress someone with my skill. What came out was simple beautiful music. It took 53 years of playing the piano to finally get here. Much of the music was written as I wrote posts for Jamie’s blog and now the book. When it is published I want it offered with the book. Book sales will be split with him so he well have money to help his survive after parole.

        I think the reason i called the words I wrote a poem is because I didn’t write music with it and I usually write them together. About my son and daughter. They are going through a very difficult time in their sibling relationship that put me in the middle being made to feel I had to choose who I thought was right.

        I enjoy our conversations. we’ve written before if memory serves me right. As far as your music skill – as I tell my students, there are no wrong notes. When you let down the wall of fear that you might make a mistake and just let it go – that is the joy of making music. That is what you do with your words and why it reaches the heart. What you said about my poem not having any of the physical world in it – that made sense. I will think about that. That is a new concept for me.

      • johnallenrichter

        Sonni, you’re scaring me. While reading your comment I kept forgetting if I wrote it or if you did. Because everything you’ve said – “in our conversations” – is like my entire life’s book. Not just a page or two, a favorite chapter… no no,, So I have to ask, are you real? Are you some kind of angel? Or has my subconscious self been writing these comments to my conscious self because it realizes that I desperately need to know someone else in this world knows what I’m talking about? My kids are driving me bananas. I just had to throw my 24 yr old daughter out of the house just this week, Tuesday, and that has seriously been screwing with my mind all week. And talk about letting it go? I did that exact same thing when I turned 50 six years ago, which is why you see my seriously screwed up songs on my blog now… I no longer care what other people think and made a conscious decision to become that way purposefully. And I am going to sing, sing, sing if I want, or just jump in the downtown fountain if I feel like it… As one kid from a family of seven kids, I have never had the chance to find myself, never had my own bedroom, or live my life without needing to worry about a dozen other people, how my actions might affect them, always needing to toe this line or that, or make someone else happy. Well, it’s Johnny happy time now… They can all climb aboard or get off at the next stop, because I won’t be coloring inside the lines anymore and haven’t drawn the train tracks yet so don’t really know where its headed. Guess I’ll figure that out when I get there. In the mean time, I think you are awesome. But of course if you really are just me writing to myself, then you already knew that…. 🙂

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