One Fine Day: David Byrne Performs His Hymn of Optimism and Countercultural Anthem of Resistance and Resilience with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus
“I complete my tasks, one by one. I remove my masks, when I am done…”
By Maria Popova
In the spring of 2019, when David Byrne (b. May 14, 1952) took the stage at the third annual Universe in Verse to read a science-inspired love poem to time and chance titled “Achieving Perspective,” I introduced him as one of the last standing idealists in our world — a countercultural force of lucid and luminous optimism, kindred to Walt Whitman, who wrote so passionately about optimism as a mighty force of resistance and a pillar of democracy.
Two weeks later, Byrne took the stage at the National Sawdust gala to celebrate their largehearted mission of using music as an instrument of change, as a movement toward a more beautiful and inclusive world. Accompanied by Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco and the transcendent harmonics of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus — that bright young voice of the future — he performed a coruscating version of his song “One Fine Day,” originally released in 2008 on Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, co-written with Brian Eno, and reimagined a decade later on Byrne’s Whitmanesque-spirited 2018 record turned Broadway musical American Utopia — one part of his wondrous multimedia project Reasons to Be Cheerful.
With poetic lyrics that feel both staggeringly prescient (“In a small dark room — where I will wait / Face to face I find — I contemplate,” “I complete my tasks, one by one / I remove my masks, when I am done”) and of sweeping timelessness (“In these troubled times, I still can see / We can use the stars, to guide the way / It is not that far, the one fine day”), this buoyant hymn of optimism ripples against the current of our time as a mighty countercultural anthem of resistance and resilience, worthy of Whitman.
ONE FINE DAY
written by David Byrne and Brian Eno
Saw the wanderin’ eye, inside my heart
Shouts and battle cries, from every part
I can see those tears, every one is true
When the door appears, I’ll go right through, oh
I stand in liquid light, like everyone
I built my life with rhymes, to carry on
And it gives me hope, to see you there
The things I used to know, that one fine
One fine day
In a small dark room, where I will wait
Face to face I find, I contemplate
Even though a man is made of clay
Everything can change that one fine —
One fine day
Then before my eyes, is standing still
I beheld it there, a city on a hill
I complete my tasks, one by one
I remove my masks, when I am done
Then a peace of mind fell over me —
In these troubled times, I still can see
We can use the stars, to guide the way
It is not that far, the one fine —
One fine day
Complement with Jane Hirshfield’s poem “Optimism” in a tender stop-motion animation and astrophysicist and poet Rebecca Elson’s spare, exquisite masterpiece “Antidotes to Fear of Death,” then revisit U.S. Poet Laureate and Universe in Verse alumna Tracy K. Smith performing her poem “The Everlasting Self” with an astonishing percussion ensemble at National Sawdust and join me in supporting their largehearted world-building through music.
Published May 14, 2020