Taylor Swift’s New Album Has a Song About Her Rhode Island Home
It seems as though Taylor Swift kept herself busy during the quarantine. She dropped a big surprise at midnight on Friday, her eighth studio album folklore. Drastically different from her upbeat album pop albums of recent years, folklore offers a raw and emotional sound that we don’t often hear from her.
Out of the 17 tracks (16 released last night online and one, "The Lakes," saved for the physical copies), I’m partial to one titled “The Last Great American Dynasty," as she offers up a musical history lesson about her house in Watch Hill, a coastal village of Westerly, Rhode Island.
Taylor’s Rhode Island home has quite the history, and this single provides some clever lyrics as it paints the story of the original owners of her current estate in Watch Hill.
“Rebekah rode up on the afternoon train, it was sunny/ Her saltbox house on the coast took her mind off St. Louis.”
So who is Rebekah? Taylor certainly did her research on her house in Westerly, because Rebekah was the wife of William Hale Harkness, the founder of the Standard Oil Company, who passed away of a heart attack in 1954 (both mentioned later in the song). Mr. and Mrs. Harkness lived in what they called the “Holiday Home”, and after Mr. Harkness’ passing, Mrs. Harkness lived out her life being known as quite the party girl, according to the New York Times.
The best part of this reflective song is the picture Taylor paints of this wild heiress. She accounts her findings with stories that Rebekah “filled the pool with champagne," “blew through money on the boys,” and played “card game bets with Dalí."
Rebekah was a rabble-rouser, and while it's unknown if Taylor knew about the previous owner before she purchased the estate in 2013, I wonder if she feels akin to this woman. Taylor went from the sweet girl next door to metaphorically killing off that image to become a mega pop star that some thought was a little too much. The passion that she puts into this storytelling suggests that she feels a sense of comradery with Mrs. Harkness.
"There goes the most shameful woman this town has ever seen/She had a marvelous time ruining everything."