The most moving tribute to a beloved child since Hey Jude, Gracie is typical of the lilting, piano-based songwriting style of Ben Folds. Melodic, gentle, and built around lyrics so tender that you almost want to cry (and sometimes, this listener admits, not just almost), this succinct, deceptively complex song makes you wish your own mom or dad had been a talented songwriter, so you could carry a gift like this around with you forever. Many years from now, grown-up Gracie will have this lovely emotional time capsule to remind her of how much her father adored her, a keepsake better than any old photo or inherited object could ever be.
Here, as in another of his wonderful songs, Brick (a song you should hear, if you haven’t already, see the Songs of the Day archive), Folds demonstrates that he knows how to use strings in a popular song arrangement. By the end, as the drone of the cello is offset by the pizzicato of the plucked violins, it sounds almost like chamber music. Also on display is that rare talent for bringing a song to a tidy and satisfying conclusion, not too early, but early enough that you feel like you wouldn’t have minded a little more.
“One day you’re gonna want to go”, he sings wistfully. One senses, though, that she’ll always feel the tug of home.