Peace Corps Writers
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David Schickele's Peace Corps Film — also in this issue You Can’t Break My Window Mister —
   David Schickele’s Music

by Tom Hebert (Nigeria 1962–64)

Earlier in
"A Closer Look"

Was Al Gores Sister A Peace Corps Volunteer?

Remembering Gambela

The Spy Who Was A PCV

Purgatory: The Movie

AT A MID-80s PEACE CORPS REUNION in Washington, D.C., I met up with David again after some 20-odd years. I hadn’t seen him since a Free Biafra/Committee of Returned Volunteers meeting in 1969. He mentioned his music. Like everyone else I knew, I had seen and used his film Give Me A Riddle, so I was interested. A week later he sent me a 45 RPM with “Jack” on the A side. In 1986, “Jack” helped me transition my career back to freelance consulting as I wore out the little 45 playing it every morning, steeling myself for the lone life ahead. A piece of “Jack” :

    Jack is true as the day is long
    an honest man in his hooves
    he don’t tell lies he just takes what
    little the lord bestows you
    and folds it under his cap
    flap your innocent angel wings
    hosannas sing
    it don’t mean nothing to Jack

    so say your prayers if you must do
    keep those beads in spin
    but when he crooks his finger
    just give him your
    watch and wait by the window
    fold your hands in your lap
    he take everything his hand can hold
    but your heart your soul
    but won’t take none of your crap
    cause it don’t mean nothing to Jack

     Beyond that 45, one of my life treasures is a 1987 cassette of Volume Four (of five), entitled “Everything.” The songs on it all have complex orchestrations with multiple tracks, David on leads with harmony vocals, reeds, drums of all kinds, pedal steel guitars, cello, harmonica, etc. Professionally recorded. But, as you can tell from “Jack” above, how tuneful they are! And some really, really swing, hosannas sing, in a mighty big way. I whistle them when I am out riding my Spanish pony. Accessible.
     The songs grew from David’s richly poetic lyrics, often written for his friends. They’re filled with heroes, outlaws and mavericks, death and danger, lovely and lonely women, weird strangers, ramblin’, horizons and away places, blues and aloneness, portraits of old friends, and one about a magical saloon:

    . . . the place just made me feel at home so
    it’s kind of hard to explain
    unless you’ve spend a night in old Ibadan
    at the West End Café

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