A Song for the Ages

By Keira De Vita

Written by Taylor Swift, in her eighth studio album, folklore, “The Last Great American Dynasty” (LGAD) is storytelling perfection. Complemented with a relaxed soundtrack, the song follows the story of Rebekah Harkness (also known as Betty Harkness) who lived from 1915 to 1982 as an American composer. Harkness and her third husband, William “Bill” Hale Harkness, lived in Rhode Island and thrived sitting at the upper end of the middle class with ‘new money’ due to Bill’s largely inherited share of Standard Oil (an oil company). “They picked out a home and called it ‘Holiday House,’” the house the song centers around where “Their parties were tasteful, if a little loud” and ventures to hit the turning point in character for the composer. Bill Harkness passes from heart failure which changes Rebekah’s perspective on most things, as well as her life. 

The song shifts at this point, and sets the scene of the way Rebekah felt when she went ‘off the rails.’ She found her adventurous party-self through her husband’s death as she moved from Rhode Island never turning back, to live in a forever high from partying and doing what brought her joy to mask the tragedy of her husband’s passing. Rebekah instantly surrounded herself with friends, “[Filling] the pool with champagne[,] [swimming] with the big names, and [blowing] through the money on the boys and the ballet.” The composer went on pacing through life.

To listen to this song for the first time again would be a dream. The bridge of the song closes “Fifty years is a long time/Holiday House sat quietly on that beach/Free of women with madness, their men and bad habits,” the instrumental use rises quickly and the bridge ends mellowly out, in to almost complete silence ending with “And then it was bought by me.” This verse expresses that after Rebekah passed away, the house sat for fifty years with no owner, then was purchased by Swift herself. The line after, “Who knows if I never showed up what could’ve been,” transfers Rebekah’s known ownership of ‘Holiday House’ to Taylor Swift’s. Swift compares herself to Rebekah as they both obtain the title “the maddest woman this town has ever seen.” They both “had a marvelous time ruining everything.”