My Favorite Song: Magnólia by Jorge Ben Jor

All in White

You decided to wear your best outfit, a white suit with an outstandingly floral tie with tropical flowers. The suit doesn’t fit you perfectly, it’s a bit roomy, requiring you constantly readjust the coat so that it doesn’t fall too far forward or back. Hoping you were going to grow into it, whether by extra food or extra weight at the gym, you bought it from a thrift store not too far from here. In the year since you last saw her, neither of which had happened, and you hope she doesn’t notice.

You take your place in the center of the park, just as you two had decided months ago. She wrote, “The fountain where it all began, where I wished for you and when you appeared.” Standing in the Spring sun, flowers in bloom all around, you take a deep breath. “What more could a guy ask for?” you think, “my life is beautiful, and it’s only going to get better when I see her again.”

The Alchemists are Coming

“Magnólia” was written by Brazilian artist Jorge Ben Jor, and it is the 6th song on his 1974 album (his 11th!), A Tábua De Esmeralda, or, The Emerald Tablet. Ben Jor’s work is some of the most impactful in the Brazilian landscape, especially among his peers, because he was able to create uninterrupted by the military regime that affected artists like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. His music toyed with convention in subject matter and style, but never too far so as to seem un-Brazilian. He used the tools of samba to create something truly original, without avoiding or diminishing a Brazilian sound.

The album has many themes, but the overarching one is the concept of alchemy, an ancient philosophy and science of turning materials such as lead and iron into gold and other metals. The Emerald Tablet was said to hold the key to transmutation, the actual process of changing matter. Alchemy lent itself to the album artwork, the album title, and even some of the songs in full, such as “Os Alquimistas Estão Chegando” (The Alchemists Are Coming). The topic also provides a bit of magical realism to any other topic the album presented, from the magic power of a really nice tie, to the moments of waiting for a special woman to come by again. In the Jorge Ben tradition, there is at least one song on this album dedicated to a woman by name – Magnólia.

The Smell of Rose

As the sun reaches its peak, you shift uncomfortably in your suit. It’s a little hotter than you expected, and there’s been no sight of her yet. You lean on the edge of the fountain and close your eyes. Taking another deep breath you smell a faint scent of rose. A breeze blows by and the smell surrounds you.

Ela chega na primavera
Ela já se encontra a caminho
Voando numa nave maternal doirada
Muito veloz feita de um metal miraculoso
Com janelas de cristal
E forro de veludo rosa

She arrives in the Spring, just like the flowers that were in bloom. She’s already on her way. Comforted by this you relax a bit more. She’s probably flying in a golden mothership, made of miraculous metals and crystal windows. She’s probably wearing pink velvet, pink was her favorite color. She’d even match your tie. You could see her now, speeding as fast as she could, trying to get to you.

There was no doubt that she would come. She would arrive, and it would be beautiful.


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