The killing has intensified along the road to peace…

For theatre major today, I had asked the class to bring in their current favourite songs… The one that they are most attached to at this moment, the one that most closely defines them. I was not prepared for what would happen. The music ran the gamut of genres and messages, and I couldn’t have been happier with the result.

One song more than stood out – “Road to Peace” by Tom Waits. It’s a winding, seven minute long narrative about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s a relatively unbiased account, focusing more on individual stories of lives lost, than on the overarching impetus behind the conflict. There’s also a tangential critique of George W. Bush’s involvement (or lack thereof) in the conflict. At times, Waits sounds as though he’s reading off of a CNN news ticker, but even that is a fresh approach to song-writing.

There was a tall, thin boy with a whispy moustache disguised as an orthodox Jew
On a crowded bus in Jerusalem, some had survived World War Two
And the thunderous explosion blew out windows 200 yards away
With more retribution and seventeen dead along the road to peace

Now at King George Ave and Jaffa Road passengers boarded bus 14a
In the aisle next to the driver Abdel Mahdi (Shahmay)
And the last thing that he said on earth is “God is great and God is good”
And he blew them all to kingdom come upon the road to peace

Wow. In eight lines, he has told the story of hundreds. But that’s not enough for him. No, Waits goes on to tell God’s story in his song…

And if God is great and God is good why can’t he change the hearts of men?
Well maybe God himself is lost and needs help
Maybe God himself he needs all of our help
Maybe God himself is lost and needs help
He’s out upon the road to peace

Well maybe God himself is lost and needs help
Maybe God himself he needs all of our help
And he’s lost upon the road to peace
And he’s lost upon the road to peace
Out upon the road to peace.

Waits is a lyrical and musical innovator. Listen to the song. Today.

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