Friday, December 16, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: WASH MY HANDS, Meredith Brooks

Meredith Brooks was one of the casualties of the Britney Spears-led cheesecake pop revolution at the turn of the century. The 90's were full of female rockers and female-fronted rock bands--Hole, Veruca Salt, The Breeders, The Pixies, Sheryl Crow, Paula Cole, and dozens of others. Brooks shot to prominence with the tamer-than-it-seemed Bitch, but her first couple of albums revealed someone that had some depth, some introspection, and who was not afraid to explore the darker side of the female experience--through a woman's eyes, not a man's. The female rock phenomenon vanished off the map, like so much of American culture, in the wake of 9/11; all of a sudden, the only females that could get contracts, much less airplay, were those unabashedly peddling their figurative asses. Red-blooded America at war had no use for independent, strong-willed women that dared to question traditional American male-dominated values (there's a post in here somewhere; this was one minor expression of not only the change to a more conservative "patriot" America, but also a reaction of those conservatives to the less savory aspects of the Clinton years. But I'm not going to write it today).
Wash My Hands is from the same album Bitch is on, but it was not a single, and indeed I doubt I would even have been touched by it if it had not been included on a live Lilith Fair album. The live version is much, much more powerful than the album version, but the basic point of the song is the same. Going through early recovery at the time, and watching Sabrina's mother and then Lila struggle to get their positive sense of self back after the degradation that women in active addiction go through, this song was something I could vicariously identify with. And the struggle remains real for many women in early recovery now--the struggle to not be viewed as the sum of their "sins" of active addiction. not only by others but by herself. I honestly don't remember if Brooks had substance abuse issues or not; she hasn't been in the news for fifteen or more years. But I do think I remember reading something of it at the time, and this song certainly fits into such a possibility.
The lyrics are short, self-explanatory, and don't need too much exposition. I cannot find a video of the Lilith Fair performance, but if it's out there on some file-sharing network, grab it, it's really worth hearing. The video included is merely the album recording; it's the only one on You Tube of the song.

And the lyrics:

Wash my hands, of crimes
Pour the water over, my skin, my spine
Cleanse my soul and ease my mind
I've been fixed on all the damage done
Why do I always forget how far I've come

I'm done dying for the past
I'm done dyin' for the past

Say all's forgiven now
Let's call it even, shall we
Can't you judge me for my love and not mistakes I've made
I swear by who I am and not by yesterday


In between black and white I disappear
Circle round the stone until I landed here


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