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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