“Late at night when it’s hard to rest/I hold your picture to my chest/and I feel fine, I feel fine/But it’s a rainy night in Georgia …” – written by Tony Joe White and performed by Brook Benton.
I need your input. I know this is a terribly personal question, but which songs make you cry? And why? (And would you be miffed if you suddenly, inexplicably started receiving spam emails for Kleenex and Visine?)
I could name a dozen or more songs that reliably put me on a spectrum of emotional reaction from “misty-eyed” to “weepy” to “bawling” to “No, hold off with the Jaws of Life until I hear what happened to poor little Teddy Bear …”
(Those manipulative so-and-sos behind TV’s “This Is Us” added “You Are My Sunshine” to the mix a while back, darn it.)
I can share such potentially embarrassing information with you because we’re all friends here, because the macho “Big boys don’t cry” mantra was always a bunch of hooey anyway and because if I don’t hurry up and write something, the paper will probably fill this space with “Family Circus” rejects. (“Who left little dotted lines all over a columnist’s career?” “Not Me!” “Ida Know!”)
You would think that a person would swap out painful songs instead of accumulating them over a lifetime, but whoever said “Time heals all wounds” was wrong. Time doesn’t heal all wounds; it accidentally sews a surgical sponge inside of you before hitting you with an unexpected out-of-network bill.
Certain songs should carry trigger warnings, as they dredge up poignant memories of unrequited love, deceased pets, faraway homes and shattered dreams. Who am I kidding? I’d probably ignore the warnings. I would masochistically insist on a little of “the hair of the dog that bit him” (especially if the dog wound up shot because of rabies).
Why do I deliberately subject myself to a barrage of time-tested tear-jerkers on YouTube or my MP3 player? Well, sometimes I just need a catharsis.
Granted, fellows who say things like “Sometimes I just need a catharsis” are the ones who experience unrequited love more than guys who say, “Sometimes I just need a joint; can I get you one while I’m up?”
My 29th wedding anniversary is fast approaching, but “Leaving On A Jet Plane” still delivers retroactive stress related to my long-distance courtship of my wife. “Watching Scotty Grow” is a joyful song, but I get choked up because our son is growing up too fast.
One of the “songs” that is most gut-wrenching for me is actually a recitation: Walter Brennan’s 1962 rendition of “Old Rivers” (written by Cliff Crofford). If you’re not familiar with it, the narrator reminisces about a poor, hard-working neighbor he traipsed along behind as a youngster. Old Rivers is quoted as promising, “One of these days I’m gonna climb that mountain/Walk up there among the clouds/Where the cotton’s high and the corn’s a-growin’/And there ain’t no fields to plow.”
“Old Rivers” resonates because it makes me appreciate the hardscrabble existence endured by my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles during the Great Depression. Of course, it also resonates because I have to get up off the sofa and find the remote so I can watch Walter Brennan in high-definition reruns of “The Real McCoys.” Sigh
Seriously, turn on the waterworks and send me those comments.