The Empty Sidewalks


Can two walk together, except they be agreed? – Amos 3:3

And when I see the sign that points one way
The lot we used to pass by every day

Just walk away Renee
You won’t see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You’re not to blame

Walking away.

It’s not always easy, is it? For even if you do, that’s not the end. These relationships leave an indelible stamp on our hearts, in our minds and deep in our souls. They cannot be erased any more than an old chalkboard’s marks. Maybe not visible to the eye, but still the fine dust and subtle imprint will remain.

And the sidewalks will surely never be the same, because (as Dionne sang) “there’s always something there to remind me”. Those too, just won’t seem to go away. You can avoid those places and things but they’re always still around, lurking in the shadows of your mind, just waiting to reemerge.

From deep inside the tears that I’m forced to cry
From deep inside the pain that I chose to hide

Just walk away Renee
You won’t see me follow you back home
Now as the rain beats down upon my weary eyes
For me it cries

The Bible clearly tells us that there are times to walk away from troubled relationships. When it’s clearly not good for us. When it’s creating wrongs for others. When they are just plain unhealthy.

Sometimes a tree has to be trimmed to ensure it’s long term health and beauty. And so it is with our lives, our pasts and sometimes, those people who are just no good for us.

But it’s hard. As Christians, we sometimes allow ourselves to be trapped in toxic relationships by our false belief that it would be sinful on our part to cut it off, and that God calls on us to remain with love, patience and tolerance.

But that’s not really true.

Your name and mine inside a heart upon a wall
Still finds a way to haunt me, though they’re so small

Just walk away Renee
You won’t see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You’re not to blame

“Walk Away Renee”, originally recorded by The Left Banke in 1966, was written by keyboard player Michael Brown – he was 16 at the time – after he met the song’s namesake, Renee Fladen, who just so happened to be the girlfriend of the band’s bassist, Tom Finn.

Legend has it that when Michael went into the studio to record the harpsicord part for the song, Renee was there. Her presence made him so nervous and his hands shook so badly that he couldn’t manage the piece. He left without finishing and came back later that night, after she had gone, to record it.

Obviously, young Michael was quite smitten with Renee, as he wrote another song about her – “Pretty Ballerina” – a year later. “Walk Away Renee” was clearly an admission to himself that Renee belonged to another and would never return his advances, so he was better off forgetting about her.

“Walk Away Renee” went on to reach #5 on the Billboard Top 100 and was covered by artists as diverse as The Four Tops (it went to #3 on the British charts), Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Linda Ronstadt w/Ann Savoy, Rickie Lee Jones, The Cowsills, Vonda Shepard and many more.

Each of the cover versions have their own unique qualities, but the ageless beauty and universal meaning in the song remains clear and shining bright, no matter who does it.

So, go ahead, let yourself off the hook, and know that it’s OK sometimes to let go.

Then again, we never really do, do we?

Listen to the original here:

Great live version by Southside Johnny and the Jukes here:

The hauntingly beautiful Rickie Lee Jones version here:




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