I'm a lyrics girl, I grab on to the lamentations of people like Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen and swoon and sigh over their grief. With Whispering Pines, however, I have barely even touched on what Richard Manuel is singing about, his voice itself is so full of sadness and beauty. Tragically, that sadness may have gone deeper than his voice as he committed suicide in 1985 at age 40.
Manuel wrote the song on an old piano with one key out of tune and took inspiration from nature for the melody. It was fellow Band member Robbie Robertson who helped Manuel with the lyrics when he was having difficulty writing them.
He said in an 1985 interview, “It's especially hard for me to pick lyrics to songs, lyrical songs, because I can't just get on a na, na, na, na song, you know. I have to have some kind of lyrical content … I've got a lot of songs, but no lyric”. And, now that I've read the lyrics, I can say they are lovely enough to match his beautiful voice.
You can listen to it if you click on the 'hear' button in the header.