On his last trip to St. Louis in fall 2008, Jonathan Richman threw some long-time fans for a loop with a set marked by some hard-earned heaviness in place of whimsy and levity. He undercut his trademark delivery of childlike wonderment with some adult concerns; he sang of his mother's death and covered a late-period Leonard Cohen song in a similar vein. But those who listen closely to even his best-known songs realize that Richman's keen eye for life's big and little mysteries has never blinked at fatalism. Instead, he views it as part of life's rich and knotty tapestry. When Richman was a young man, he sang of being "Dignified and Old." After 35 years as an underground rock & roll hero, he's both.
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