There is a craft to writing songs.
And there is an art.
The craftsman builds songs from words and notes.
The artist receives songs from the sky, or the wind, or both, or neither.
Laughter is heavy, it falls like an apple from a tree, sweet and ripe.
But sadness, it lingers, alone and forsaken, it falls slowly like leaves in the night.
The angel of springtime he rides on the southwind
The angel of summer he does just the same
The angel of autumn she's blue and she's golden
And the angel of winter won't remember your name
From The Catfish Song by Townes Van Zandt
Townes Van Zandt, long after he died, introduced me to Wolfgang Pracht. It was actually Larry Monroe who made the posthumous introduction. Townes knew Wolf through the songs he had sold to an agent from Nashville that other songwriters were playing. Yes, there are people who make a living peddling poetry and pretty melodies to singing songwriters who have lost the key to the self-locking door of Mystery.
One fine day on the streets of Köln, two songwriters chance to meet - one from Texas who would be playing that night, the other a traveler from a small German village about a 45 minute train ride away.
"Excuse me, sir, are you Townes Van Zandt?" asked Wolf.
"Yes I am. Who are you?" replied Townes.
"My name is Wolfgang Pracht. I've been wanting to meet you for many years."
"Wolfgang Pracht? Wolfgang? I've been wanting to meet you for years. What are you doing here in Germany?"
"I live here." replied Wolf.
"You live here?" asked Townes.
"I was born and raised in a village about 75 kilometers east from here."
"You're from Germany? I thought you were an American."
"I'm German. Might you have time for a cup of coffee? There's a cafe around the corner from here...."
If I needed you would you come to me
Would you come to me for to ease my pain
If you needed me I would come to you
I'd swim the seas for to ease your pain
~ From If I Needed You by Townes Van Zandt
15 years and one lifetime later, when I first met Wolf face to face, it was through the open doorway where Townes used to sleep when he hung out in Austin. Our friendship had actually begun 9 months earlier when Wolf reached across the Atlantic and gave me a call. He had just heard the music on my first album recorded after the breakup of my band Timbuk3. I had offered Wolf a place to stay when he came to town to visit friends, so I picked him up and took him home.
That evening, Wolf asked me a complicatedly simple question.
"What do you want?'
"What do you mean, what do I want?" I replied.
"Just that. What do you want?"
"Nobody's ever asked me that before."
Just that, in an of itself, revealed to me the location of a vast unknown of which I had been totally unaware. It was like standing in an open doorway of unlimited possibility like a proverbial deer in headlights, and the doorway kept opening wider and wider. I was ready to bolt. But to where?
When time started moving forward again, I found the words to express my deepest desire.
"I want to write songs that hold magic for those who hear them, songs that heal the hidden wounds. And I want to grow as an artist and as a musician."
"I think I can help you." Wolf said with a smile.
Later that night, after dinner, as we sat on my balcony overlooking the ravine that ran down to the Colorado, I watched with wonder as little clouds, like sheep, passed before my eyes, so close I could actually reach out and pet them, illusive little mysteries, magically appearing and disappearing, again and again and again.
In that moment I instinctively knew that my life would never be the same.
She carries your dreams on a saddle of gold
Her hooves grace the tops of the trees
Your tears are entwined in her tale of time
The gossip of whispering leaves
You wake from the strain of rattling pains
On windows of yesterdays sins
Forgiveness it stands is not in your hands
Have you seen the wind?
~ From Windhorse by Barbara K and Wolfgang Pracht