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"Light The Way"


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In 1970, Eric went to New York City to cut a few demos for a solo single. He was still signed to Epic Records after the demise of Cyrus Erie. One of his songs, "Light The Way," caught the ear of producer Barry Kornfeld. Kornfeld convinced Eric to let a young singer name Oliver take a crack at it. Oliver had just hit the top of the charts with a tune titled, "Good Morning, Starshine."

From Eric Carmen: Marathon Man:

In the album’s liner notes, Oliver said this about “Light The Way”: “Eric Carmen has written a song that expresses the despair and impotence that so many feel when trying to bring pressure on people in high places to put an end to the death and suffering in Southeast Asia in particular, and when trying to live nobly and peacefully in a world inhabited by human beings who have for thousands of years courted and possessed the shatterer of dreams and the murderer of loves that is war in general.”

Eric found Oliver’s take on his song interesting, but completely off the mark. “‘Light The Way’ had absolutely nothing to do with war,” says Eric. “When I met him, Oliver was one of those really sincere guys. When I met him he shook my hand, looked me right in the eye and said, ‘I loved your song. It was so meaningful to me.’ I thought, ‘Well, that’s great!’ When he put out his album and I read that whole thing about impotence and the Vietnam War, I thought, ‘What the hell is he talking about? That’s not what my song’s about.’

“It was really my take on ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ It was about lonely people trying to find a place to fit in. It had nothing whatsoever to do with war. I think the line, ‘hopes for a time of peace,’ got him. And he said, ‘Ahh! It’s an anti-war song.’"


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Honestly the disconnect between Oliver and Eric about the song illustrates the power of effective songwriting. Eric, like many other successful songwriters, has this incredible knack for writing emotive yet somewhat open-ended lyrics that allow for interpretation by the listener. This allows people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, to attach themselves to the meaning of the song.

Maybe Eric didn't write "Light the Way" as a war anthem, but that's how Oliver viewed it, and he sells it as such in his recording. That's to me what makes good music, when different people can pull their own meaning out of a track.

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Light The Way
(Eric Carmen)

Recorded by Oliver
United Artists UA50735 | 1970

All those silver dreams,
Though destined to be broken
Still linger in my memories, these tarnished pages

That have been and gone,
Left saccharin and ashes
Scattered in a wind of silent indifference

Light the way, light the way
Where do I belong?
Light the way, light the way
Oh, where do I belong?

Bitter sweetened tears
Have left their burning traces
Of bridges soaked in kerosene and expectation

Light the way, light the way
Where do I belong?
Light the way, light the way
Where do I belong?

For a time of peace
Left many broken hearted
For causes that are lost are felt far more deeply

Light the way, light the way
Where do we belong?
Light the way, light the way
Oh, where do we belong?
Oh, where do we belong?

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