The best line in all of country music was written by the husband-wife team of Ed and Patsy Bruce.
The song is “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” and the line is a world and a philosophy and a creed, all in a small quatrain:
Cowboys like smoky old poolrooms and clear mountain mornin’s.
Little warm puppies and children and girls of the night.
Them that don’t know him won’t like him, and those that do sometimes don’t know how to take him;
He ain’t wrong, he’s just DIFFERENT, and his pride won’t let him do things to make YOU think he’s right.
Breathless over that. Simply undone.
And then there’s one that Alabama sings---Randy said that once when they were on tour, a man handed him a tiny tape recorder and asked if they’d listen to it when they got time. And so, after the performance, and in one of those endless midnight drives to the next appearance, they did. And to quote Randy (sorta): There was nothin’ NOT GOOD on that tape.
The song which captured them first:
There’s an old flame burnin’ in your eyes,
Which tears can’t drown and makeup can’t disguise.
That flame might not be stronger, but it’s been burnin’ longer,
Than any spark I might have started in your eyes.
I think of the long-night sittings in hotel rooms, dingy apartments, on someone else’s couch, with a pawnshop guitar across your knees, letting the words pour out, taking them apart, letting them flow, as the sorrows and the blues and the grims mingle into an anthem or a shout or a hymn of lost love or old times or friendships tried and proved.
The old poets wailed and praised and put words into unforgettable tales and lauds, but few used their words as cleverly to tell their stories as do the writers of Country Music.
And if Kris Kristofferson had never done another thing in his life, this would be enough:
Well I woke up Sunday morning,
With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes,
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
An' I shaved my face and combed my hair,
An' stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.
I'd smoked my brain the night before,
On cigarettes and songs I'd been pickin'.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid,
Cussin' at a can that he was kicking.
Then I crossed the empty street,'n caught
the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken.
And it took me back to somethin',
That I'd lost somehow, somewhere along the way.
In the park I saw a daddy,
With a laughin' little girl who he was swingin'.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school,
And listened to the song they were singin'.
Then I headed back for home,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'.
And it echoed through the canyons,
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.
On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cos there's something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothin' short of dyin',
Half as lonely as the sound,
On the sleepin' city sidewalks,
Sunday mornin' comin' down.
Country music is a force of its own, the true American anthem, born of the smoke-filled, heat-seared moments with naught between you and life save guitar and words. And how many of those thousands of hopeful pilgrimages to Nashville result in success, I wonder. How many send the minstrels and the poets back home to the bays of mechanic's shops or farm chores or cubicle warrens, where the words-which-could-have-been languish in a forgotten drawer.
How many a Poet Lariat shares his thoughts and prayers and tunes with only night air and the stars? And how many of the song-filled people persevere, how many still compose and rhyme, their sparks never flickering out.
I’ve been thinking about this subject for a long time, and yesterday Keetha wrote such a wonderful post in http://www.keetha.com/2010/04/you-just-know-that-song-was-based-on.html that I thought I’d put down a little bit so I could link it today.
She’s a fresh-air read, and knows the South. She also puts words together like nobody's business.
And is there a line in a song which captures YOUR interest or imagination? Is there a BEST EVER one for you?