Thursday, March 24, 2005

Visions of Johanna

The Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Time Out" has been in my car's CD player for so long that Thomas calls "Blue Rondo a la Turk" his favorite song. Finally, one of our kids or one of their cousins wanted to hear something else. I happened to have Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" handy, so I popped that in. Thinking they might be amused by hearing Johanna's name in a song, I played "Visions of Johanna." Amused they were, especially Johanna herself. "'Johanna is not here!'" she said, laughing. "That's silly!"

Now, Tami may tell you a different story, but Johanna is named after that song. Before she was born, we had endless conversations about names. As we didn't know if we were having a girl or boy, these discussions were doubly long, and most of them went like this:

Tami: How about x?

Joseph: I don't like it.

Tami: Why?

Joseph: I don't know why, I just don't like it.

Tami: OK, how about y?

Joseph: I don't like it.

And so on.

But one day, she said "How about Johanna?"

My mind raced. I said to myself "We can name our daughter after a Bob Dylan song! Poker face! Poker face!"

Not just any Bob Dylan song, either. This one has it all. In 1966 Dylan was at the absolute height of his powers as a songwriter, singer, and bandleader. "Visions of Johanna" is about 7 1/2 minutes of opaque lyrics, backed by a killer band with all of that mid-1960s Dylan tasty goodness: Al Kooper's organ, Dylan's harmonica, etc. And the singing is fantastic, with seemingly bizarre choices working like magic. As usual, he follows the melody only when it suits him, and for some reason, he appears to sing the first couple of lines of each verse jumping up and down an octave. Why? I don't know, but it works.

So I suspect I didn't really manage a poker face as I replied "Uh... yeah, that's OK. I kinda like it. I guess. Yes. Good name. Put that on the short list."

We eventually settled on the name Johanna. After she was born, my friend Pat let the cat out of the bag. His emailed response to the birth announcement quoted the line "Jewels and binoculars" in the subject line. By that time, it was too late for Tami to back out. I had my living, breathing, beautiful Bob Dylan reference.

One day I'll tell you about Frank Sinatra's second wife, Ava Gardner...

2 comments:

Jambo said...

Great story. Here's my version: When we found out we were having twin girls we were forced to come up with two names. Connie had always planned on naming a daughter after her mother and thus we had Patricia. But with two at the same time she thought it only fair that the other be named after someone on my side of the family. But my mom is Shirley and my grandmothers were Doris and Alice. None of those are names that really work these days and Connie suggested Alison. I said, "Great, after the Elvis Costello song!" Connie said, "No, after your grandmother Alice." Yeah, that's what I meant to say.

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