Contextual Commentary: Eddie Coffey's "Grey Foggy Day"

Background Information:

A native of Cuslett in Placentia Bay, Eddie Coffey has gained significant renown in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador since starting his career in the late 1960s. The use of Eddie Coffey’s music is a common Newfoundland wedding tradition, such that Coffey himself personally performs at weddings on a regular basis. His career has lasted over forty years, and Eddie Coffey is the heart and soul of the Newfoundland music culture from the perspective of many islanders. As a native Newfoundlander it is not uncommon to hear an older relative say “I loves Eddie Coffey" using the Newfoundland vernacular. With saying that, a significant reason for Newfoundland’s admiration for Eddie Coffey involves the ability to relate to his lyrical content; and even the ability to say that his most famous track “Grey Foggy Day” reminds someone of their own wedding.

This Song resonates with individuals on a Universal level:

Coffey opens the song “Grey Foggy Day” with, “Been some years ago… Since I left from my island…To go to the mainland… Like the old folks would say”. Immediately, Eddie Coffey presents this song as a method of story-telling. Something to consider is that a common motif in story-telling begins with a reference to the past, at least in the context of a folk narrative. Coffey’s method of story-telling draws from elements that are common place in the Romantic Period. Including another reference to the past, English poet William Wordsworth was best known for his “walking back through nature” perspective in his writing. In saying that, Eddie Coffey begins with “Been some years ago” as a means of travelling to an unfixed moment in time which draws from romanticizing events of the past. However, Coffey also simultaneously indicates a major component of Newfoundland culture by referring to Ontario and other larger provinces as “the Mainland”. Newfoundlanders are the only Canadians who refer to the larger part of Canada as the Mainland, such that Coffey immediately signifies his heritage and the rhetoric used by older generations living within the province.

Something to consider is that Coffey never explicitly tells us where the “old cape shore” is. In saying that, Eddie Coffey deliberately avoids identifying which part of Newfoundland he refers to in “Grey Foggy Day” as a means of resonating with listeners on a universal level. Coffey himself is from Placentia Bay, but that does not necessarily mean he is referring to his hometown in a narrative context. The song “Grey Foggy Day” contains several references to the old cape shore as Coffey writes, “To wake in the early morn… To the sound of the old fog horn…And wait for the men to return…With their boats in the bay…All these things I don't see no more…When I lived on the old cape shore…And I gazed on the boats on the moors

On a grey foggy day.” Within just these few lines, Coffey betrays several literary devices. The first part of the aforementioned verse states, “To wake up in the early morn… To the sound of the old fog horn… And wait for the men to return… With their boots in the bay.” Coffey illustrates a common place image of the past with Romantic tones, such that memories of waking up in the early morning as a young boy to witness the men returning from work is a mundane aspect of the past in unspecified out-port communities of Newfoundland. With that being said, Coffey’s speaking voice throughout the song emphasizes that nothing is comparable to memories of the past.

Final Thoughts:

Coffey’s lyrics in the latter half of the previously mentioned verse depict images that romanticize Newfoundland of the past, and possibly before Confederation on March 31st, 1949. In the present the speaker no longer lives in this unspecified out-port community, such that the content Coffey shares with listeners remains nothing more than memories. However, Coffey shares the speaker’s memories in same manner as Wordsworth two hundred years earlier. As previously mentioned, Eddie Coffey never specifies which community in Newfoundland he refers to in the narrative. The reason for this is because Coffey illustrates images of home as a means of resonating with all listeners. The concept of “home” is something that pertains exclusively to the individual. In saying that, individuals have a unique perspective of what the fixed definition of home is. Eddie Coffey chooses not to name a specific place, as a means of creating images of home for all listeners based on their own lives and experiences. Furthermore, the issue of early memories and living at home as a child is an experience often perceived as the best moments of our lives. Therefore, the entire five minute duration of “Grey Foggy Day” provides listeners with images of home without corresponding to specific place and time.

The Modernist Son

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