Sometimes there’s no room for a third. One suffices, a second perfects but the third distorts. What if, though, a story is incomplete, a last chapter must be written? Such was the dilemma for one Francis Ford Coppola, who was compelled to finish the Godfather saga as a trilogy. Four years before the film’s 1990 release, Coppola and his wife lost their son Gina-Carlo in a tragic boating accident. To suggest the onscreen death of Mary, Michael Corleone’s daughter played flawlessly by Coppola’s daughter Sofia, was closure is anathema to any parent who has ever lost a child. There is no such thing as an end to such suffering. The thing is, the movie as a standalone would likely have not been as panned as it was by purists. And looking back, we did savor the moment of truth when the patriarch and fleetingly legitimate said, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” We’ve all been in such situations, not able to escape the demons we’d thought had been exorcized.
Billy Joel would likely empathize with such sentiment. We who came of age listening to Joel’s classics were quick critics of the icon’s 1980s foray into pop music. What started with “Piano Man” should have ended with “The Night is Still Young,” an anthem to lost youth and testament to how powerful a ballad writer Joel is. The man who is “The Entertainer,” released the same in 1974, had made a sufficient mark. The end of the second Greatest Hits should have been The End. Heck, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” would have been the music industry’s greatest one hit wonder of all time. Or so many of us insisted. How wrong we were.
In a 2010 interview with Howard Stern, Joel was asked which of his songs he feels is least appreciated. In response, he played, “And So It Goes.” The song, my personal favorite of his, was so deeply personal to Joel, he held it back from being released for years before it was added to 1989’s Storm Front, best known for the No. 1 hit, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Of the coda to that album, Rolling Stones music critic John McAlley wrote, “The hymn-like “And So It Goes” takes the record’s turbulent emotions and stills them in a moment of quiet revelation. Accompanied only by a piano and a discreet synthesizer, Joel proposes emotional vulnerability and reconciliation to life’s uncertainties as a route to secular redemption. It is a note of startling maturity, at once mournful and bracing. And as the final word on an album that takes a serious look at a troubled world, it reflects the hard-earned wisdom of a no longer innocent man.”
Also missing from our collective enjoyment would have been these two lines, “Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes; Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens,” words that have been running through my mind for weeks and the inspiration for this week’s Quill. We who dwell in the world of economics and finance are witness to extremes on an almost daily basis. One record after another is entered into the history books with such frequency, we’ve grown nearly numb to shocks.