First of all, my wife’s not dead. But a careless doctor nearly killed her 5 years ago. A couple of caring doctors had to put her back together again. It took a long time, and she nearly died on several occasions while it was underway. It was all pretty rough. I learned a lot, but I paid a lot to learn it. I don’t recommend it, really, even though I never would have known how amazing my wife is if all that hadn’t happened.
Anyway, how did this all get turned into art? Indirectly. A few months ago, my wife and I were hanging out in Moab, Utah with my daughter and my grandsons. As always, I had harmonicas with me. One day in the desert, I played a lick on the harmonica that I liked, and then I played it again, and then I recorded it on one of the devices that I always keep around for that purpose. That lick is the instrumental hook for “Kill the Doctor.” It was a short lick, but it had a certain dead-serious feeling and a groove in it already.
The next thing I did, back in my studio, was put a rough arrangement in place–bass line, drum groove, strumstick, and organ–using Cakewalk Sonar, my recording workstation. It was around that time that I realized this piece was going to have lyrics, unlike most of my music. I wrote 90% of the lyric in one pass, and took another few weeks to complete it. (It was the first lyric idea that came to mind, so I guess that doctor must be in there pretty close to the surface, at least lately.) When it was done, I restructured the song around it, which meant changing the structure from a 12-bar blues to a 16-bar blues. Then I recorded all the remaining parts (14 takes for the vocals, 13 takes for the harmonicas) , arranged them, and mixed it all down.
This song began as a piece of music, not a set of words. Most of my song ideas take that path, even though a lot of my life involves writing words. Maybe that’s because playing, not singing, is what comes most naturally to me. The harmonica is my real “voice.” But I like the way this one came out, so maybe I’ll do more singing soon.
By the way: my wife didn’t die, like I said, and I don’t plan to kill the doctor. But it makes a hell of a song.