I’ve always had a fascination with Harry Houdini due largely to my brother Tim who came before.  In our youth Tim wrote a song about Houdini. I never forgot his first and last lines.

WAS IT ALL JUST A TRICK HARRY
A SLEIGHT OF HAND

&

WAS DEATH THE ONE THING YOU COULD NOT ESCAPE
OR THE GREATEST ESCAPE OF THEM ALL?

I think I at least partly stole Tim’s melody too. So he wrote it and I just filled in a few decades between his two erudite lyrics. This song is a tribute to my brother Tim Sysyn and Houdini.

HARRY

WAS IT ALL JUST A TRICK HARRY
A SLEIGHT OF HAND
HANGING UPSIDE DOWN
TIED-UP LIKE SOME CRAZY MAN

YOU ALWAYS HELD THE KEY
LEAVING NOTHING TO SURPRISE
IN A MOMENT YOU WERE FREE
RIGHT BEFORE THEIR EYES

‘CAUSE THEY WANTED TO BELIEVE
YOU FOOLED EVERYBODY ELSE
BUT YOU KNEW THERE WAS NO MAGIC
YOU COULD NOT FOOL YOURSELF

AND YOU TRIED TO FIND YOUR MOTHER
WHEN HER SPIRIT DISAPPEARED
LISTENING FOR HER VOICE
A VOICE YOU’D NEVER HEAR

‘CAUSE YOU WANTED TO BELIEVE
JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE
YOU KNEW THERE WAS NO MAGIC
YOU COULD NOT FOOL YOURSELF

SO HARRY, SEND A MESSAGE
FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL
WAS DEATH THE ONE THING YOU COULD NOT ESCAPE
OR THE GREATEST ESCAPE OF THEM ALL?

Words & Music Copyright Kevin A Sysyn 2012 All rights reserved

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Harry Houdini was more an escape artist than a magician. But above that he was a great entertainer and unknown to most a tremendous athlete. He enjoyed worldwide success and was once said to be the most famous man on the planet. Houdini was very close to his mother and when she died in 1913 he made a life-long effort to contact her on “the other side” through seances, mediums and such which were very much in vogue at the time. Houdini, a master of contrived showmanship, immediately recognized that the mediums were charlatans, tricksters and thieves preying on the deepest emotions of people. He made exposing them  a passionate personal crusade and second career. However he never lost his fascination with the after-life, and before his death on Halloween 1926 Houdini gave his wife a sealed message which he promised to communicate if he were ever able to reach across the abyss. For years she tried to contact him and he did not respond. In 1936 she gave up and revealed the secret message and it was one word.

BELIEVE

____________________

Recording the song Harry

When Chris arranged and produced the first draft of this strange song, I thought the harmonica was perfectly haunting….or hauntingly perfect. A few weeks later he surprised me with an ensemble mix. I thought that was great but we wound up using his “first take”. Chris claims to this day  that there was a connection with his mother-in-law having passed away in the very room where I recorded the song. As proof he points to the faint guitar string vibration after the end that was there despite the machine being turned off. He’s superstitious. But so far as I can tell neither Harry or Chris’ mother-in-law has shown up.

Making the Video

I never made a video before this one. I regret the amateurish quality. It is a slide show because the videos of Houdini pretty much suck and are not nearly as interesting or tell the story like photographs do.

 

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