“Bathsheba Smiles” by Richard Thompson
Most readers would likely recognize the word “Bathsheba”. But those with some in-depth Biblical knowledge would also know that this is the name of the lady who King David committed adultery with. King David slept with this woman even though she was married to another man. And to make a long story short, after doing away with her husband, David did proceed to marry Bathsheba.
She went on to give birth to Solomon who, according to Biblical lore, was the wisest and richest king to ever live. But despite mothering such an enviable figure, it’s safe to say that Bathsheba is generally not regarded as a good woman. Owing to this, unlike some other famous women from the Bible, you never hear of anyone opting to name their daughter after her.
And it is seemingly along those lines that Richard Thompson commences this song. He more or less portrays the Bathsheba he is referring to as a seductress.
Title (“Bathsheba Smiles”)
Concerning the titular phrase, it is revealed that her smile is such that it can humble a person, presumably men in particular, though that is never specified.
And for the most part, she is presented as a very-attractive lady who is also the life of the party. But where the concept of her being sheisty is introduced is in Richard putting forth that she “air-kisses every victim twice”.
We will take that what he’s referring to would be the same as blowing a kiss towards someone. Maybe where Thompson got that inspiration from is, once again going back to the Biblical story, David first being smitten by Bathsheba from afar.
But the interesting thing in relation to the innuendos present in this song is that according to lore, it isn’t as if Bathsheba seduced David. Rather she was accosted by a great king. This was a very powerful King whom even her husband looked up to. This is something we will presume is a challenging proposition for any woman to turn down, married or not.
But maybe, there’s some readers out there who interpret the story differently. For instance, perhaps they imagine something like Bathsheba intentionally bathing in view of the king.
Subject of “Bathsheba Smiles”
In any event, the chorus goes on to further depict the subject as a very-confident woman and further insinuates that she’s a master at pleasing men. But to reiterate, the woman being referred to clearly isn’t the same as the Biblical character but presumably was inspired by her.
Indeed, the Old Testament figure who’s most commonly depicted as a harlot by the likes of musicians is of course Jezebel. But in the second verse of this song, it’s rather Bathsheba who gets the prostitution treatment.
In other words, it is once again implied that she is very good at handling the opposite sex. But to her, “sharing love is sharing wealth”. Or put otherwise, before being the beneficiary of her romantic favor, you must be ready to “dig in your pocket”.
Bathsheba is a Master of the Game
The bridge that comes sometime after is more metaphorical than the rest of the song. But all lyrics considered, what the vocalist is putting forth boils down to depicting Bathsheba as a guru in the game while her business associates, i.e. johns, are more akin to addicts for her love.
Or put more simply, this track serves the purpose of biggin’ up a highly-effective and popular prostitute, which is actually a semi-recurring topic amongst musicians, especially it would seem male singers from back in the day.
But the one question that must be begged in the process is why exactly did Richard Thompson decide to name this piece after Bathsheba.
Richard Thompson is a tenured professional musician whose discography currently spans the length of six decades.
He has released nearly 10 studio albums since the year 2000, i.e. after turning 50 years old, with his final studio LP of the 20th century being 1999’s “Mock Tudor”. It has also been pointed out that it stands as the most-recent album he put out via a major label, in that case being Capitol Records.
Release of “Bathsheba Smiles”
It is from the “Mock Tudor” project that we get “Bathsheba Smiles”, the third song on its playlist. This album, which was ranked pretty high by professional critics, was released in September 1999.
Since “Bathsheba Smiles” was a non-single, it shares the same release date as “Mock Tudor”.
Did Richard write “Bathsheba Smiles”?
Yes. Richard wrote this song himself. The track’s production task was subsequently accomplished by these record producers:
- Rob Schnapf
- Tom Rothrock