NPR logo Greek Myths in a Same-Sex Love Song

Greek Myths in a Same-Sex Love Song


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Patricia Barber won the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in the new category of songwriting. hide caption

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Monday's Pick

  • Song: "Narcissus"
  • Artist: Patricia Barber
  • CD: Mythologies
  • Genre: Jazz

"I'm falling in love with her," Patricia Barber sings in the opening line of "Narcissus," from her splendid new Mythologies — a song-cycle based on the Greek myths from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Given the ballad's title, it's clear that Barber is touching on themes of self-adulation, but the subtext of same-sex romance remains apparent throughout.

An openly gay singer, pianist and composer who won the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in the new category of songwriting to create Mythologies, Barber confirmed in a recent interview that the song involves a Sapphic love affair — "It could be the gay wedding song," she says — but the poignancy of "Narcissus" comes not only from her intentions, but also through its wistful beauty.

For all the song's double-entendres and social politics, "Narcissus" doubles as one of those sensual rhapsodies that seem perfect for a late night on some honky-tonk bar's jukebox. If, by chance, the song lands in such a setting, that'll further confirm its universal allure.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Patricia Barber

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