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Wilson, M. (2007). “Lonesome Suzie,” “We Can Talk,” and Lacan. Fort Da, 13(2):37-47.

(2007). Fort Da, 13(2):37-47

“Lonesome Suzie,” “We Can Talk,” and Lacan

Mitchell Wilson, M.D.

Richard Manuel hung himself early one morning in a blue-light, cheap hotel room in Florida in 1986. His death, unnoticed by many, was painful to some. A founding member of the rock group The Band — whose utterly fresh and uncannily time-worn songs of an old, weird America garnered the group great critical acclaim in the late 1960s and early 1970s — Manuel had run out of things to say, or couldn't say them anymore. He felt his time was up. For those who were moved, some to tears, at the news of his passing, it was Manuel's voice they remembered with a bittersweet fondness. Whether singing falsetto on Bob Dylan's “I Shall Be Released,” or a gritty tenor on “Shape I'm In,” Manuel couldn't help but convey a deep and painful wisdom about life as he seemed to feel it, as if it were all already gone, as if some aching loss was already fully felt. For others, it was his songwriting that would be missed. As a songwriter Manuel displayed a cunning wit, a wide range of thematic interests, and a penchant for odd rhythms and chord changes. And yet, Manuel had stopped writing songs by the time he was 25 or so, many years earlier. For those who missed his songwriting, they had been feeling the loss for a very long time. What had happened? Why had he stopped writing? Why had he stopped speaking?

We will never know the answers to these questions. What I hope to do in this relatively brief paper is to use Manuel not as a “case study” in a reified way (thereby pretending it is possible to plumb the biographical depths to extract the truth of his subjectivity).

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