Lost My Driving Wheel

September 27, 2009

It’s amazing, how quickly our daily routine can be interrupted, or worse, shattered by a significant event. We are often forced to be strong when we are actually at our most vulnerable, such as in cases of loss or grief, where we need to support others and postpone our own inevitable mourning.

The words to this haunting song sound as if they could have been written a hundred years ago. Like Hank Williams’ “So Lonesome I Could Cry,” from earlier in the century, the evocative and solitary lyrics of “Driving Wheel” are undeniably American, despite its writer’s British roots. So literate, you find yourself listening intently. So sad, you find yourself sobbing for this person as if he were sitting in front of you.

With a steam locomotive, a driving wheel is a powered wheel which is driven by the locomotive’s pistons (or turbine, in the case of a steam turbine locomotive.) It is used in the song as an analogy that most of us can easily identify with.

Tom Rush (1970), Roger McGuinn (1973), Cowboy Junkies(1993) and Jayhawks (2000) are among the artists who have performed this song, originally written by Canadian singer-songwriter David Wiffen in the late 1960’s.

Wiffen originally released it on his early 1970’s album. The Cowboy Junkies’ version above is great, albeit a little sleepy. Vinyl collectors are encouraged to hunt down Wiffen’s original 1971 LP…

wiffen

Lost My Driving Wheel
Well I just came up on the midnight special how about that
My car broke down in Texas she stopped dead in her tracks
Just called to tell you that I need you
Just called to tell you how I feel
I feel like some old engine lost my drivin’ wheel
Feel like some old engine lost my drivin’ wheel
Took my money on the night train what a terrible fight
I gave my promise I would be there with you by Saturday night
I wanna tell you that I need you baby
I need to tell you just how I feel
I feel like some old engine lost my drivin’ wheel
Feel like some old engine lost my drivin’ wheel
Can’t say much in a phone call baby you know how it is
I have to tell you one short thing oh won’t you listen to this
I want to tell you that I love you baby
I want to tell you just how I feel
I feel like some old engine lost my drivin’ wheel
Feel like some old engine lost my drivin’ wheel

-David Wiffen

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