Richard Dawson's 'Apples and Oranges': A song from beyond the grave
In hindsight, it's not at all surprising that many people on Monday morning are passing around a clip of the song "Apples and Oranges," which a young Richard Dawson, who died on Saturday at age 79, recorded in 1967, a few years after he became Peter Newkirk on "Hogan's Heroes."
The actor and television personality released the track during the six-year run of "Hogan's Heroes,'" and the Vietnam-era anti-war sentiment within is strong, as is the orchestration: The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" was released the same year, and by adding strange, eerie psychedelia into their music, the Beatles' creation helped push pop in a new direction. Dawson picks up a similarly psychedelic feeling in a song about two other kinds of fruit; "Apples" was released as a B-side to a single called "His Children's Parade."
Why is it being shared so often in the wake of Dawson's demise? Simple: The lyrics to "Apples and Oranges" are sung from the point of view of a recently deceased narrator longing for the corporeal pleasures of fruit picked fresh from the tree.
A minor key ballad in which Dawson sings of produce hanging "high in the tree, I'll pick some for me," the melodramatic ditty features a simple harpsichord melody and Dawson's half-sung, half-spoken voice wistfully longing for something real. But then, halfway through, the bittersweet ditty turns more serious when Dawson lets on that he loves them because they're "far from the blood, so far from the guns," and a new reality sets in.
As the song drives into the climax, Dawson sees the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and wonders once again on the joy of apples and oranges. Then comes the big reveal: "Apples and oranges, pick them for me, because I am ... dead."
It's a spooky conclusion given the sad fact of Dawson's demise -- it really is as though the singer/actor/TV personality is communicating to his fans one last time -- and is certainly worth a listen.
-- Randall Roberts
Photo: Richard Dawson hosts "Family Feud" in 1978. Credit: Associated Press