One of my favorite jazz standards is “Detour Ahead”, though I’ve only heard it in one version, and maybe not the best possible one. Was listening to it tonight.

Smooth road, clear day
But why am I the only one travelin’ this way
How strange the road to love can be so easy
Can there be a detour ahead

This has something to do with art—I know that experience well, of being the only one on the road. Solitude and originality have some relation after all. In any case, the road to love and the road to art are the same, at least part of the way. But what makes this song so great is that it has at least three distinct voices. Hear how it shifts in the next verse:

Wake up, slow down
Before you crash and break your heart
Gullible clown
You fool, you’re headed in the wrong direction
Can’t you see the detour ahead

It happens—to most artists no doubt. Now a different voice, more objective.

The further you travel
The harder to unravel the web
She spins around you
Turn back while there’s time
Can’t you see the danger sign
Soft shoulders surround you

What’s to say? You have a goal, a plan, a direction, a map—but you can’t help it, you’re only human after all. And those soft shoulders—a beautiful lyric, and a beautiful world.

Smooth road, clear night
Oh lucky me that suddenly
I saw the light
I’m turning back away
From all that trouble
Smooth road…smooth road…no detour ahead

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