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- Posted on Aug 12th 2010 11:30AM by Pat Pemberton
You wouldn't expect a song about a dysfunctional family used on a TV show about a dysfunctional family to be affirming. But in the real world, families are imperfect and complex -- far more 'Roseanne' than 'Brady Bunch' -- and Rain Perry's 'Beautiful Tree' is a testament to the power of blood relations.
While today's TV themes are far shorter than they were 25 years ago, 16 seconds of Perry's 2008 coffeehouse song manages to capture the spirit of this CW drama with the lyrics "Bent or broken, it's a family tree/Each branch a part of a part of me/This is my tree, and it's a beautiful tree."
In other words: Screwed up or not, family is family.
And the song's author counts as an expert on nontraditional families herself.
"'Beautiful Tree' comes from 'Cinderblock Bookshelves,' my album about the pros and cons of growing up a hippie kid raised by my itinerant artist father,' Perry tells Spinner. "As that album's final song, it's filled with gratitude for my 'bent and broken' family."
In the show, 15-year-old Lux Cassidy seeks emancipation to escape a life of foster homes and somehow winds up living with the birth parents who gave her away in their teens. While her parents have their problems, their dysfunction pales in comparison to Rain Perry's family.
Initially raised by her mother, Perry attended a cult-like church in Redondo Beach, Calif, six days a week, four hours at a time. When her mother died of toxic shock syndrome at age 27, the 7-year-old Rain moved in with her aspiring screenwriter/occasional drug dealer father. As odd as her life was before, at least it was stable. She and her father lived in two dozen homes, sometimes sharing residences with odd roommates going by names like "Bear" and "Superman."
After her father died of colon cancer at 53, Perry dug into her father's unpublished letters, screenplays and diaries. Inspired by his unachieved goals, Perry -- now a stable mother of two -- wrote 'Cinderblock Shelves,' an ambitious album-book-play project about her disheveled life and the ties that bind. Meanwhile, the use of 'Beautiful Rain' on 'Life Unexpected' -- which begins its second season next month -- gave her tune a boost of recognition.
"I was delighted and tickled that it was chosen as the theme song," she says. "I understand the protagonist Lux's sometimes uncomfortable role as the most mature person in her family, and I so identify with the way she and her parents approach their family roles as a puzzle to figure out together."
Rain Perry's new album 'Internal Combustion' will be out on Precipitous Records on Sept. 21.