Song-of-the-Week #13: Grandma Say

Here’s a preview of Song #13: “Grandma Say”:

Grandma Cluck (before she was a grandmother) with my Aunt K. and father

I wrote this song while multi-tasking, something I’m working on unlearning doing. I was in the middle of cooking dinner, vacuuming the studio room, recording a drum idea for a song, probably other things when I imagined my Grandma Cluck watching me, shaking her head and saying, “For Pete’s sake…”

Both my father’s mother and mother’s mother were highly skilled in homecooking. One of my favorite memories of my Grandma Cluck is seeing her in her tiny kitchen, wearing a white shower cap to keep falling hairs out of the food. Sometimes she cooked so much she’d be too tired to eat. One of her recipes I adore is for chicken-corn soup with hard-boiled egg, a Pennsylvania-Dutch specialty. When she made it, she pulled the veins out of every stalk of celery and every piece of chicken.

My grandmother on my mother’s side recently had a birthday; she’s 93. Here’s some advice from her about storing and eating summer peaches:

i bake in haste
eggshell in ev’ry cake i make
now what would your grandma say?
if she saw you cookin’ that way?
turn the heat way down
and open that door ‘fore the cakes go brown
-eyed suzies nod and sway–
they see you cookin’ that way, hey

what did you think it takes to do all this cookin’?
keep yourself and the house good-lookin’?
work to the bone till the bone’s gone bare
notin’ the growth of new grey hair
pullin’ strings on the purse for the things you bought
end of the day it seems you oughtta negotiate your pay–
now what would your grandma say ?

she’d say,
“do the things you love and do them well,
‘cuz you can’t tell when things will go from good to worse
don’t live life like it’s a curse.
include the ones you love,
tell them so, make sure they know
try best to keep them in your song
‘cuz no one’s here for long”

that laundry’s dried
pull the pins off and the line inside
mend the holes until they’re gone
now put those glad rags on
if your heels dig in
shindig ‘em on out with yr kith & kin
“you’d best get out there and play”–
that’s what your grandma’d say

I recorded “Grandma Say” in an old church hall in Charlottesville, VA; Wizard Ken helped out with mastering.

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15 comments on “Song-of-the-Week #13: Grandma Say

  1. Diane, I love you, always. Technically this arrived in my inbox today, but I don’t care. Yesterday was my granny’s birthday. She would have been 98! I can project that she was and is just as amazing as yours are. Your arrival in my inbox gave me a warm feeling all over.

    Love and hugs,


  2. Hi Diane,

    Thank you for Grandma Say… Very nice! I love the piano. Perfect! It makes me think how good it would be to have piano transcriptions of your music, to strip it down to the pure musical elements. I’m sure it would hold up and be delightful. Your music is as good as your lyrics, and that says a lot.


  3. Hoooray!
    So glaaad you recorded this one:)
    Very excited to have you come play here in PVD soon!
    <3, G

  4. I remember when you sang this at Joe’s Pub.

    Diane, I just heard Tom Brosseau singing and he reminded me so much of you, in my mind, you two are twins.

    Both of you are so surprising and tear my heart open.

    All the best,


  5. You’ve captured Grandma Cluck perfectly in this song. I can visualize Grandma (Kate) working her magic in her small kitchen. After all these years I still miss her! Thanks for writing a tribute to her.

  6. My grandparents died long before I was born, so I never got to know the roots of my family and the feeling, to have grandparents. This songs makes me rethink my life and how it would have been to have a grandma. I imagine her full of wisdom and warmhearted, a shelter, a guardian.. Thank you for giving me the impression of having a grandma.

  7. There may be some essential grandma essence in this song that transcends actual grandmothers; I listened to this many times before finally realizing that, although this song felt like my grandmother to me, in actuality it doesn’t map to her in a literal way. So there is some grandma-underneath kernel shining.

  8. Diane, Love this :) Made me think of my Granny and sweet memories. Watching her taste her famous egg-nog in which the raw eggs were “cooked” for 3 days in the whisky and brandy, for her annual Christmas sing-a-long party where I sang the 3 verse Jingle Bells solo, and the year that she forgot that she had already added the the liquor and added it again; that was an especially happy party. She would have 2 small cups and that was the only time she ever drank, once a year. Love to you and Ken, hope you’re having a great time on tour.