A Parade of Inspiration on Wilco's 'Sky Blue Sky'

Not everyone ends up at a parade on purpose. Singer Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco found himself trapped by one years ago in his hometown of Belleville, Ill. That moment inspired the title track song of Wilco's new album, Sky Blue Sky. Tweedy shares this memory and reflects on how it changed him.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Before taking a dip in the pool, you may be planning to head out to your town's Memorial Day parade. Marching bands and scouts in formation will be high stepping down main streets across America this weekend. The memory of one such parade years ago in Belleville, Illinois, inspired a new song by Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco. The song is called "Sky Blue Sky."

Here's Jeff Tweedy in his own words.

(Soundbite of song, "Sky Blue Sky")

Mr. JEFF TWEEDY (Vocalist, Wilco): Because Belleville is such a long narrow city, the main street, which is Main Street, is very long and it's very difficult to avoid any type of parade that they might have.

(Soundbite of song, "Sky Blue Sky")

Mr. TWEEDY: (Singing) Oh, the band marched on in formation. The brass was phasing tunes I couldn't place. Windows open and raining in, maroon, yellow, blue, gold and gray.

I remember distinctly coming home from St. Louis, which, for me, growing up was the big city, getting so close to home I could see the building that I lived in but not being able to go across the street because the street was blocked off for a parade.

(Soundbite of song, "Sky Blue Sky")

Mr. TWEEDY: (Singing) The drunks were ricocheting. The old buildings downtown empty so long ago. Windows broken and dreaming. So happy to leave what was my home.

At being not a very pleasant day, somewhat overcast day, added to the melancholy feeling of it. But when I thought back on it many years later, it just felt like a moment to come to the conclusion that growing up in the city is one thing, whether or not the city that I was living in, our town, as it were, was going to have much to offer me as I got older was another question. And I think the conclusion I came to was that I was probably going to have to leave to follow with my desires.

(Soundbite of song, "Sky Blue Sky")

Mr. TWEEDY: (Singing) With the sky blue sky, this rotten time wouldn't seem so bad to me now. Oh, if I didn't die, I should be satisfied. I survived. That's good enough for now.

ELLIOTT: That was "Sky Blue Sky," the title track of Wilco's new album. Singer, songwriter Jeff Tweedy did end up leaving Belleville, and today he calls Chicago his home.

To hear a full concert by Wilco, visit npr.org/music.

(Soundbite of music)

ELLIOTT: For this evening, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

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