Crazy Mary – Pearl Jam – What You Fear The Most Could Meet You Half Way

Victoria WilliamsVictoria Williams is a singer/songwriter originally from Shreveport, Louisiana. Her unique ability to place engaging tales into her music, like the novelists Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor, depicted and explored small town southern life. In 1993, just as Williams began to gain notoriety, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Because she had no health insurance a group of musicians recorded covers of her songs and released a charity cd entitled Sweet Relief: A Benefit For Victoria Williams. Pearl Jam were one of the bands to participate in the project and chose Williams’ deeply moving “Crazy Mary.”

The song, a tale of an outcast mentally unhinged woman killed by a car that loses control as it rounds a bend in front of her home, is lent vibrant color by the band’s approach and most notably the compassionate resonance of Eddie Vedder’s delivery. His vocal performance stands as the album’s crowning moment and it offered a rare opportunity to become familiar with both Williams’ provocative songwriting abilities and Pearl Jam’s collective capacity to innately convey a song’s true meaning. In Williams’ gifted hands the life and death of wild eyed Mary is brilliantly mixed with small town detail, like the congregation of youths underneath a no loitering sign, to form realistically poignant and very colorful mental imagery. Like those acclaimed southern novelists that came before her, Williams was able to vividly capture a slice of humanity, and thanks to the generosity of the artists involved in Sweet Relief many of us were offered the gift of discovering her music.

“She lived on the curve of the road,sweet reliefSweet Relief Album Cover
In an old, tar-paper shack
On the south side of the town,
On the wrong side of the tracks

Sometimes on the way into town we’d say:
“Mama, can we stop and give her a ride?”
Sometimes we did,
But her hands flew from her side
Wild eyed, crazy Mary

Down a long dirt road, past the Parson’s place
That old blue car we used to race
Little country store
With a sign tacked to the side
Said ‘No L-O-I-T-E-are-I-N-G Allowed’

Underneath that sign
Always congregated quite a crowd
Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around
Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around
Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around

One night thunder cracked,
Mercy backed outside her window sill
Dreamed I was flying high above the trees,
Over the hills
Looked down into the house of Mary
Bare bulb hung, newspaper-covered walls,
And Mary rising above it all

Next morning on the way into town
Saw some skid marks and followed them around
Over the curve, through the fields,
Into the house of Mary

That what you fear the most,
Could meet you halfway
That what you fear the most,
Could meet you halfway

Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around
Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around
Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around”