That’s SIR Raymond Douglas Davies

ray-davies-70
Image from Mojo.

Somehow, I missed this:

The KinksRay Davies received a knighthood Saturday for his service to the arts as part of Queen Elizabeth’s annual New Year Honours list.

Yes, Ray Davies — Kinks frontman, beer pedestal, tradition-keeper of little shops, china cups and virginity — is now Sir Ray Davies, knight of the realm.

This probably makes me happier than it does Davies, an occasionally curmudgeonly sort who was nevertheless gracious about the honor. “Initially I felt a mixture of surprise, humility, joy and a bit embarrassed but after thinking about it, I accept this for my family and fans as well as everyone who has inspired me to write,” he told the BBC.

But for me, well … Ray Davies may be my favorite songwriter. I love the Beatles, but there’s something about the Kinks that speaks to my innermost heart.

The best Kinks songs are rich with melody, compassionate and witty. Think Arthur and his little “Shangri-la”:

Here is your reward for working so hard
Gone are the lavatories in the back yard
Gone are the days when you dreamed of that car
You just want to sit in your Shangri-la

Later in the song there’s a touch of mockery, but the harmonies suggest that Ray isn’t fully behind his sneer.

Or “Sunny Afternoon,” from “Face to Face.” Here’s a man who’s lost everything, a toff who by all rights probably deserves it: “My girlfriend’s run off with my car / And gone back to her ma and pa / Telling tails of drunkenness and cruelty.” And yet it’s hard not to feel sad for him, as he sips at his “ice cool beer” and ponders what went wrong.

Best of all is “Days,” a 1968 single that manages to be forgiving of a person who’s gone away and left our narrator bereft:

I bless the light
I bless the light that lights on you believe me
And though you’re gone
You’re with me every single day, believe me

In his unusual memoir, “X-Ray,” Davies admits to bouts of depression — and, more often, simple existential loneliness. It’s perhaps for that reason that I love him so. He can invest his narrators with such feelings and, at his best, never sound self-pitying, only curious as to why he’s standing on the outside, peering in through the window at all the people having fun.

He is far from a perfect songwriter. After the great 1966-1971 run, the albums became hit or miss, with “Give the People What They Want” all too appropriately titled. Some of the songs on his solo works have more of the spite of “Mr. Pleasant” than the warmth of “Shangri-la,” though they’re still worth listening to.

But for all that, he’s still trying. I had the good fortune to interview him in 2008; he described himself as “just another punk trying to make contact with the world.” So I’m not going to argue with a knighthood.

I bow down and salute you, Sir Ray. Thank you for the days, indeed.

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