Sunday, March 22, 2015

Walk Away Renee

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a song that I suddenly realized is forever part of my life's soundtrack.  When it came on the radio that day, I was instantly transported to my hometown's Main St. walking with friends, all of us wondering and anticipating, whether we admitted it to each other or not, about our future loves and yes... husbands.  Walk Away Renee is a haunting song about longing and loss, a beautiful piece of music with lyrics I never really understood on those blustery Main St. walks when March winds threatened to lodge grains of sand into our bright eyes.

This past week the fragile songwriter of Walk Away Renee, Michael Brown died.  His group, The Left Banke, recorded it.  I read Brown's most famous piece was based on the unrequited love he had at the time he wrote the lyrics.  That love was Renee, the girlfriend of The Left Banke's bassist.  The day the song was recorded, Renee was in the studio and Brown's hands shook so much he had to record his harpsichord pairing later and alone. The song is about teenage heartbreak so piquant, it can still make me cry.

Michael Brown's talent couldn't survive the music industry but from all accounts he was a gifted and sensitive songwriter - there are many unreleased songs that we won't hear now.  The year "Renee" was launched was star-blessed for music but The Left Banke's baroque pop song was so different for the times with its soaring refrains and melting melancholy .  What is even more remarkable is that Brown was only 16 when he wrote Walk Away Renee.  It takes major heartbreak to understand first love's hardest lesson and he poignantly captured our ardent wish to relive it, only to discover that the things on love's stage are really rather plain and ordinary.  Until Walk Away Renee's last strain, it hurts so good.  Or maybe I don't really know what he's talking about.


And when I see the sign that points one way
The lot we used to pass by every day
Just walk away, Renee
You won't see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You're not to blame

Photo:  a greeting card an old love sent me, 1972.


  1. I was a sophomore in high school, dealing with a move to a new house and the loss of a friend, when this song was popular. I would sit in my bedroom window and watch twilight descend, listening to this song on my tinny little radio. The song matched my mood, for all the reasons you describe.

  2. Ah twilight and the chords to this song...I think you understand M.D., how this piece pulls at the heartstrings just so. Thank you so much for telling me.