country music

Exit 154. I don’t want to be the kind of guy that old country songs are about.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a very large and diverse music collection.  I haven’t taken the time to learn my way around streaming music services, for a variety of reasons, but that’s another discussion for another time.

Earlier this month, I made an overnight trip to visit some relatives I don’t see often, which resulted in me spending a lot of time in the car with my six thousand plus songs playing on shuffle, and this song came on.

(The song is “The Girl From Yesterday” by the Eagles, with the late Glenn Frey on vocals.  Apparently, this is one of their lesser known songs, and there is no official YouTube video, so if in the future someone is ever reading this, and the link doesn’t work anymore, let me know and I’ll try to fix it if I can.)

I started listening to classic rock radio (among other things) in my late teens, the early 1990s.  The Eagles, one of the most recognizable bands of the genre, broke up in 1980 after an argument between Glenn Frey and Don Henley.  After both of them had successful solo careers in the 80s, the Eagles got back together in 1994, toured, and released an album with four new songs (including this one) and some live songs from their tour.  I got that CD as a Christmas present my first Christmas home from college.

But for a while, this was my least favorite song on the album, and I would often skip it.  It took a while to grow on me, because it was too country for me.  The Eagles have always been known for blending rock and country music influences, but as I’ve written about before, I didn’t like country music until much later in my life, and this song is about as country as songs come.  The topic of the song is pretty stereotypical of country songs as well: a woman whose man left her, and she is never able to get over him or accept the fact that he is gone for good.  (This song did grow on me before the rest of the country genre as a whole did, but I don’t remember if there’s any big story to that.)

It was in 2005, during my travels across the USA and back, that I realized that country music isn’t so bad sometimes.  A friend who I visited during that time let me copy a bunch of her country CDs to my laptop, and one of them included this song, which also came up on shuffle earlier this month:

Lyrically, this is another pretty standard country song: a guy is determined to get over a woman who left him.  I hadn’t heard this song in a while, and one line caught my ear when I heard it this time:

I heard that old Jones song just the other day
About a man who took a broken heart to his grave
But I’ll be dammed if a memory’s gonna lay me down

As one would expect, old country music isn’t my area of expertise, since I mostly ignored it.  I didn’t know what Dierks was referring to the first time I heard this song in 2005.  But I have learned a little more about old country music since then, and I’m pretty sure the “old Jones song” refers to this:

 

(Again, not an official video, let me know if it ever stops working.  The song is “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by the late George Jones.)

I don’t want to be the kind of guy that old country songs are about.  (Of course, in the case of The Girl From Yesterday, the genders would be reversed.)  I’ve spent decades carrying around the burdens of memories of rejection and relationships that didn’t work out.  They’re not coming back.  They’re not going to change.  It does me no good to keep carrying around these memories.  I don’t know how to do this, but I have to figure it out.  Maybe it means doing new things and spending time with different people.  Maybe it means I’ve come to some bridges that it’s time to burn.  But I will do this.  I will move on with my life.

Exit 119. What do these songs have in common?

“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” by George Jones (1980)

“Touch of Grey,” by the Grateful Dead (1987)

“Kokomo,” by the Beach Boys (1988)

“Cryin’,” Aerosmith (1993)

“It Won’t Be Like This For Long,” by Darius Rucker (2008)

“Get Back Up,” TobyMac (2010)

All of them were major hits.  Kokomo went to #1, the last of four Beach Boys songs to do so.  He Stopped Loving Her Today and It Won’t Be Like This For Long were both #1 on the country chart.  Touch of Grey, while only reaching #9, was the highest charting single in the Grateful Dead’s long career.  Cryin’, while not Aerosmith’s highest charting single, did reach #1 on the rock chart, and it seemed like it was on MTV all the time my last couple years of high school, during the era when they still played music videos for at least part of the day.  And Get Back Up, while not very well known in the mainstream, went to #1 on the Christian music chart, and it was around that time when I decided that TobyMac’s solo work wasn’t all bad like I found his early albums to be.

But there is something more significant that these songs, among others, all have in common.

They were all performed by band members and/or artists who were at the time in their 40s.

I have turned 40 since I wrote my last post.  In the months leading up to this, I was feeling a bit down about approaching 40.  Typically, fortysomethings aren’t seen as young anymore.  I have friends my age who have adult children already, and I’m nowhere close to having children.  I feel out of touch both with the people around me, who tend to be a lot younger, and with people my age, who tend to have very different lifestyles, of the sort considered to be more mature.  Sometimes I feel like life is passing me by, leaving me with nothing but regrets.

But it does not have to be this way.

I don’t have to listen to anyone telling me what I should be like at this age.  I have a lot of people who care about me; my friends at my birthday party this weekend reminded me of that through their actions, as did the students and coworkers at the school where I teach on my actual birthday.  I still have a lot of life left, and more adventures to come.  And, as demonstrated by all of the musicians above, I can still accomplish great things beyond 40.  (While researching this article, I discovered that guitarist Bob Weir was only 39 when Touch of Grey was released, but I don’t think that takes away from my point, and the other four band members were in their 40s.)

Here’s to a great upcoming year.

Exit 14. I changed my mind and decided to write about the act of changing one’s mind.

I have a bunch of thoughts swimming around in my head, and I hadn’t decided yet what to share this week.  There are some new developments regarding something I wrote about recently, and while I was thinking about how much I was ready to share about that, a song came on that seemed somewhat appropriate for the situation.  I was going to post this song with the warning that it is a country song, because some of my friends who read this blog hate country music with a fierce passion.  Then I changed my mind and decided to write about the act of changing one’s mind.  Yes, friends, this is how my brain works at the moment.  I’m very busy and scatterbrained.

Some see the changing of one’s mind as a weakness.  And by some, I mean the opponents of politicians who have change their mind and those who vote against politicians who have changed their mind without thinking about who or what they’re really voting for.  And there is often merit to this view.  There have been countless politicians who change their views as the views of the general public change just to get themselves elected, politicians who were for something before they were against it and the like.  But sometimes it is healthy to change one’s mind.  Sometimes you learn something that causes you to see other things differently.  Sometimes you just outgrow your old tastes.  Sometimes you really like a song in your early teens, then you outgrow it when your musical tastes change, then 23 years later you realize it was pretty cool after all, as I wrote about previously.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  It isn’t always readily obvious if one is changing his or her mind to try to fit in or because they have learned and grown.  But usually fake people who change their minds to fit in or gain acceptance betray themselves eventually.

Going back to the train of thought that led to this post in the first place: One topic on which I changed my mind rather suddenly at one point in my life is country music.  Sometimes when someone has a strong opinion different from mine, I’m okay with it, live and let life, it’s not your thing, whatever.  Other times, especially if they’re being a jerk about their opinion, I wish I could punch them in the face, but I don’t, because that would be childish, and that would make me the jerk, not them.  But I always have mixed feelings how to react when someone says that they hate country music, because I was once one of them.  Growing up, my dad would sometimes listen to classic country, like Merle Haggard.  Mom would make fun of him for it, and most of the kids around me at school didn’t like country music, so therefore I didn’t like country music.  I was a teenager in the era of Billy Ray Cyrus and the early work of Garth Brooks, and they played that crap at every school dance, every football game, and every lunch time with music, and that turned me off of country music for a very long time.  My position eventually softened to the point that I could handle being in a room with country music playing; I just didn’t follow country music.  But I spent four months in my late 20s traveling across parts of 46 states, with everything I needed packed into the trunk and back seat of my Ford Focus, living out of Motel 6s, campgrounds with showers, and friends’ couches and spare bedrooms.  The details of that, and what led to it, are another story for another time.  A couple weeks into that trip, I was driving across Texas, there were a lot of country stations, and I figured what the heck, it’s Texas, may as well listen to what the locals listen to.  After about an hour, I realized that a lot of this wasn’t so bad.  I discovered the song in the video below on that day (July 5, 2005, if I remember right), and it almost brought me to tears because the lyrics (well, at least the chorus, not the part about his father dying) were pretty much about how I was trying to live at the time.  (WARNING:  The following link, and the other one at the end of this post, contain country music.  Do not click if you can’t handle listening to country music.)

I’m not one of those people who listens to nothing but country, and I never will be.  But I have definitely found a few country artists that I really like.  I went to a Brad Paisley concert a few weeks ago (that was the concert at which I got recognized) and had a great time, even though I felt out of place without a cowboy hat or a beer.  I was told, though, that most of those people were just phonies who were just dressing that way to give off that image.  They are probably the same people who change their minds to fit in.  I wonder how many of them were against country music before they were for country music.  And I wasn’t at the concert to fit in, I was there for the music.  And it was great music.  I’m not that thrilled with the direction that a lot of country music has been going lately, but that’s a topic for another column.

But it’s okay to change your mind.  I changed my opinion on country music because I’m a different person as an adult compared to who I was as a kid, with different experiences in life.  It’s healthy to change your mind based on learning and growth and new understandings of the world.  And those who change their minds just to fit in will be exposed eventually.

By the way, for my younger friends who may not have recognized the name Billy Ray Cyrus earlier, he is Miley’s dad.  Apparently musical talent doesn’t exactly run in that family. 😛 And I’m not necessarily referring here to anyone who reads this occasionally who is related to the Cyri, because I know there is at least one of you who fits that description.  And my facetious use of the Latin plural here brings this post full circle, because that is related to the story I wasn’t sure I was ready to share yet.  And I’m still not… that story hasn’t finished developing in real life.  If there ends up being a story to tell, I’ll tell it when I’m ready.  But in case any of you were wondering, This is the song I heard earlier.  Literally.

I’ll just end on this note for now.