Moonlight Over Mississipi: The Making Of A Song

November 22, 1992|By Patrick McGuire

Pete Kennedy's best-known song, "Distant Thunder," was written after a long road trip to the Delta states of Mississippi and Louisiana. He remembers exactly how it happened:

"I was in Mississippi one night, on Highway 61, in the dark. There was a full moon out, there were thunderstorms up ahead, but the moon had come out from the clouds. I wrote down 'moon' in the notebook I kept beside me. There was cotton all over the ground, and I thought the clouds looked like cotton balls. I wrote down 'cotton balls.' The frogs that night were really loud and so I wrote down 'frogs.' I was in Sunflower County, Miss., at the time and that area had always been associated with the blues. So I wrote that down and I wrote down 'Delta.' By then I'd almost written the first verse:

There's a full moon out on the Delta tonight

Rolling through cottonball clouds

Every frog in Sunflower County

Is singing his song so loud

"Now I had a description, but a song that's only description i boring. It needed a story line. I needed to bring some human beings in. To me the pivotal phrase is 'like them frogs . . . ' Because the frogs have to become a metaphor for something to get you into the emotional part. So I wrote:

Like them frogs I'm singing to you in the dark

Where the bullrushes grow all around

With a weary soul and an aching heart

For it's far away I'm bound

"Now all of a sudden you have a story line. I saw two people probably lying in bed together. One is thinking about telling the other one that they're leaving, but they haven't even said it yet.

"When I stopped that night I worked on the song. I knew now it was going to be a song about being lonely and restless. Mississippi is a good place to be lonely. The thing is, I finished it about two weeks later up in New Jersey, which isn't nearly as romantic."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.