The Singing Cowboy's breakout hit and lifelong calling card — co-written with Jimmy Long at a railroad depot, and a gentle, pre-eulogistic apology to Dear Old Dad for slowly worrying him half into the grave — was the first Gold record ever , which hopefully was some consolation.
After drawing it up with superstar songwriter Craig Wiseman , Ronnie Dunn just absolutely sang the hell out of it, darting ahead of the beat and belting with a preacher's conviction. It's a eulogy to fellow San Quentin inmate "Rabbit" Hendricks, who killed a police officer during a botched escape attempt and was sent to the gas chamber.
We can only wonder what last song was sad and sweet enough for the death row prisoner to request his "guitar-playing friend" to peform. Still, he was hesitant to play it at concerts since, as he said , "Nobody wants to hear blues on blues on blues. On the title track, Gauthier seeks forgiveness and compassion from the micro to the macro level, using an unfolding lyrical device inspired by a similar mechanism on Lucinda Williams' "I Changed the Locks. The song's lyrics are in the form of a letter a soldier has written in case he dies in combat, with personal goodbyes to his mother, father and wife.
McGraw performed the song for the first time at the ACM Awards in May , and was joined onstage by military families who lost loved ones while in service to their country. Radio stations begin playing what was essentially a bootlegged version, which gained momentum with each passing week until the singer's label issued an official release. And then just kind of used our creative liberty to paint the picture.
In Red Sovine's best song, "Phantom ," an out-of-luck traveler encounters the supernatural when he hitches a ride from a mysterious trucker named Big Joe. In his saddest, "Teddy Bear," a different trucker has some CB radio talk with a lonely boy who is "crippled and can't walk. With its keening fiddle and general morbidity, "I Sang Dixie" is as forlorn as a Civil War lament, recounting a vagrant's sad and lonely death on a "damned old L. He was right. The song never cracked the country Top 40 for Rogers, but Supernaw's version stayed at Number One for two weeks in December In a sad real-life twist, Supernaw has been cited for failure to pay child support.
When Ray Charles' career reached its late-Seventies nadir, the then year-old singer found that Nashville, of all places, hadn't forgotten about him: Clint Eastwood duet "Beers to You" reached the country Top 50, a Loretta Lynn Opry gig was a rowdy hit and his fall Hee Haw appearance was so successful that Buck Owens joked, "You keep hangin' around here, and you'll get on steady.
A Marty Robbins-esque gunfighter ballad, the song tells the story of a pair of Mexican bandits who lose their life to a posse of bounty hunters attempting to bring them back to Texas. After the dude gets shot in his attempt to escape, the lady points his empty gun at his attackers, ensuring that she will suffer the same fate. Wisely, her date assuages trepidation by showing up with his dome shaved to bring this emotional scene to a close. Written in tribute to a friend who committed suicide, "Sweet Old World" is a standout from Williams' album of the same name, which is full of contemplations about life, death and all that we leave behind.
Williams began writing the song in after poet Frank Stanford killed himself with three gunshots to the heart, but it didn't see the light of day until more than 13 years later. Williams told the New Yorker she held the ballad "because my career has been distinguished by other people, who have always been men, telling me what I should sound like. Within the weepy "Chiseled in Stone," the boundlessly forlorn Vern "The Voice" Gosdin goes straight for the heartstrings and yanks. Tinged with gospel harmony and a tad overstuffed production-wise, the Country Music Association Song of the Year details the aftermath of a lovers' quarrel, a.
But Dolly uncovers a new wrinkle in a shopworn image. Here, her man sends her the flowers, along with a curt goodbye note when he dumps her, leading her to discover, as another poet once sang, that every rose has its thorn, just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad song.
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Songwriting great Harlan Howard — the man who defined country music as "three chords and the truth" — masterfully straddles the line "sympathetic" and "kind of patronizing" in this sharp appraisal of how a history of heartbreak left a woman "cold and bitter. But Tillis' cool reserve in his version, echoed in a stately piano accompaniment, mined the lyric for maximum devastation. Though Ray Price first met Kris Kristofferson when the latter was a janitor at Columbia Studios, the singer wouldn't remember the songwriter's name until he heard his "For the Good Times" demo between sets during an tour.
Though it sounds like an old standard, Vince Gill wrote "Go Rest High on That Mountain" in , inspired by the death of country great Keith Whitley due to complications from alcoholism in Though Gill began writing the song after Whitley's death, he finished it following the death of his own older brother in Despite the devastating lyrical content and tragic circumstances, it's noted for its spiritually optimistic note. Nelson's version might be the sparest of them all: just guitar, accordion and wounded warble painting an unbearably sad last-goodbye scene in vivid sepia tones.
Even the Reivers and UB40 have recorded "Blue Eyes" since, and legend holds that it was the last song Elvis Presley ever played on his piano in Graceland before his death. Austin-based singer-songwriter Bruce Robison was inspired to write "Travelin' Soldier" after a friend was activated for duty in the first Iraq war. Robison released the initial version of the song — the tragic love story of two lonely teenagers whose budding romance is trampled under the weight of the Vietnam War — in the mid-Nineties, but it became a chart-topping hit in after the Dixie Chicks re-recorded it when it again became relevant.
The song peaks on a Friday night at the football game, when the young man's name is read over the loudspeaker as the crowd is asked to pray for the "list of local Vietnam dead. In the two weeks following, "Travelin' Soldier" dropped to Number Three, then off the charts completely. Released in October , "If We Make It Through December" tells the tale of a factory worker who gets laid off shortly before the holidays and then becomes wracked with guilt over his inability to buy his daughter some "Christmas cheer.
But while headlines screamed of "bear markets" and "economic indexes," Haggard's song got right to the heart of the issue: the people behind those headlines. More importantly, it mirrored the optimism that shone through the struggles: "If we make it through December, we'll be fine.
Inspired by the story of a father who kept his son's Dodge around after the son was killed in Afghanistan, "Truck" isn't just an exploration of the ways we try and maintain connection to people we've lost through what they left behind, but about men: how they're allowed to feel, how they aren't. The song is there to emote in ways he feels like he can't. Heavy doesn't even begin to describe Shelby Lynne's acoustic retelling of her own fractured home life in "Heaven's Only Days Down the Road. It was then that her estranged alcoholic father shot and killed her mother before turning the gun on himself.
Two gunshots serve as final punctuation. Written after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, , "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning " stands as one of the most poignant "of the people" songs ever written.follow link
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But coupled with Williams' obvious talents as a singer and songwriter was an increasing dependence on alcohol, which he'd started abusing in order to relieve his sometimes excruciating back pain. As a result, he was not considered a reliable performer. Williams' personal life took a major turn in when he met Audrey Mae Sheppard, who was the mother of a young daughter and had only recently left a messy marriage.
Under Williams' guidance, Sheppard started playing bass and began performing in his band. Williams and Sheppard married in They had a son together, Hank Williams Jr. Sheppard, it seems, was extremely eager to make a mark in show business and, despite her obviously limited talent, pushed her husband to let her sing. In addition, her relationship with Williams' mom proved complicated. The two were often rivals for Williams' time and attention.
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What began with Williams writing material for singer Molly O'Day eventually gave way to a record contract with the recently created MGM label. But along with this early success came increased erratic behavior from Williams, who often showed up at live performances drunk. For a time his relationship with Fred Rose deteriorated, but the two were able to mend fences, paving the way for Williams to become a regular on the "Louisiana Hayride," a regular Saturday night performance hosted by a radio station in Shreveport.
The performances greatly increased Williams' name recognition, but he still lacked a number one hit.
That all changed in with the release of "Lovesick Blues," a throwaway rendition of an old show tune he'd pushed to tape at the end of a recording session. The song resonated with music fans, as well as executives at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, who invited Williams to perform. In ways that must have seemed unimaginable to this poor country boy, Williams' life quickly changed. His stardom put money in his pocket and gave him the kind of creative freedom artists long for. As the titles of some of Williams' songs suggest, heartbreak and turmoil were never that far from his life.
As his success deepened, so did Williams' dependence on alcohol and morphine. The Opry eventually fired him, and in , he and Sheppard divorced. His physical appearance diminished, too. His hair began falling out, and he put on 30 extra pounds. In late , he suffered a minor heart attack while visiting his sister in Florida.
A little more than a year later, on December 30, , Williams, newly married to a younger woman named Billie Jean, left his mother's home in Montgomery for Charlestown, West Virginia. Liquored up and abusing morphine, he collapsed in a hotel room in Knoxville, Tennessee.
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A doctor was called to examine him. Despite his physical failings, Williams was cleared for more travel. On New Year's Day , he took his seat in the back of his powder blue Cadillac. As his driver, college student Charles Carr, barreled toward a concert venue in Canton, Ohio, Williams' health took a turn for the worse. Finally, after not hearing from the singer for two solid hours, the driver pulled the car over in Oak Hill, West Virginia, at in the morning. Williams was pronounced dead a short while later. His passing did not bring about the end to his stardom, however.
It could be argued, in fact, that his early death only enhanced his legend. If Williams had lived, it's not entirely certain that the Nashville music community, so eager to shed its hillbilly roots, would have continued to embrace Williams' music.