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Friday, January 25, 2008

Midnight Love Songs: “He Stopped Loving Her Today”

I might-shoulda called this one “Midnight Torture for Country Music Haters,” but, somehow, it fits my mood.

It’s honest-to-God country music, so it isn’t particularly sophisticated and it doesn’t have much in the way of pretense. If you can take it for waht it is--without any sense of irony or that knowing, self-conscious attitude that robs art of any sense of its own honesty--you’ll find a simple story about a man who loves a woman, only, in grand country tradition (like it’s brother, the grand blues tradition), happiness isn’t a feature of this love.

The story isn’t presented with flowery poetry, it just unrolls slowly and simply from the first lines--"He said I’ll love you ‘til I die. She told him you’ll forget in time"--building up to its tear-jerking conclusion with an inevitability that doesn’t make it any less tragic. Again, if you can simply take it on its own terms, it really might be the saddest song I’ve ever heard, and I am a collector of sad songs.

George Jones didn’t write the song, but he gave it the perfect voice. He’s unpretentious, but affecting, and brings out the sense of loneliness and sadness that the lyrics so perfectly describe. This is, indeed, beer drinking music and one of the few country songs that regularly finds room on my iPod.

“He Stopped Loving Her Today” just may be the world’s saddest song.

Bonus for the haters, though: the cheesy, early-eighties aesthetics are almost painful.


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I’ve only recently had to listen to this song, on someone’s music rotation at work. We all sing along together and mock and laugh, and know… it’s a damn sad song.

Gretchen Wilson does a sad song called, “He Ain’t Even Cold Yet”. You MUST give it a listen.

on Jan 26 2008 @ 03:53 AM

I remember that song. Country isn’t one of my big favorites, but I do like that one. Sad songs seem almost a specialty of the genre. I have one somewhere where the chorus (which changes by verse) ends with “I’ve got your pictures (letters, memories, etc.), she’s got you.”

If you like sad songs, you may want to look for “Peter Kagan and the Wind” by Gordon Bok, and “First Christmas” by Stan Rogers. The Stan Rogers song tries a little too hard to tug on those heartstrings, though, and comes off a bit schmaltzy because of it. The sadness in “Peter Kagan” comes when you consider what happens after the song ends. I don’t think either is in the running for “world’s saddest song.”

And don’t forget “Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry. I think it’s got more of an atmosphere of weariness than sadness, though.

on Jan 26 2008 @ 09:06 AM

"Ode to Billie Joe” is a brilliant song, but I never found even a little bit sad. More mysterious, really.

I’ll check out the others that you suggest. “He Ain’t Even Cold Yet"--that’s a great title.

How is your job going, Joan?

on Jan 26 2008 @ 09:58 PM

Well, yeah, it’s got the whole “What was it that they throw off the bridge?” thing going on, but Billie Joe did jump off the bridge, presumably because of it. Overall, it’s got a hot, sleepy, southern decadent feel to me, which is why I said “weariness” rather than “sadness” above.

TW: respect72. I had to do that when I was a plebe. Not so much, anymore.

on Jan 27 2008 @ 07:35 AM
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