Thursday, May 20, 2010

Truth In Art

I recently read a blog (and I apologize that I forgot which one out of the million, or so, I've looked at lately) on which the author recounted a story involving his little girl.  Said little girl asked Daddy if all songs had to be true, to which he replied, "Yes."

I've been thinking about this a bit, especially in relation to a running disagreement that my ex-wife and I had for close to 20 years.  She believed that all songs were not only true, but literal.  And this applied not just to the writer, but to anyone singing the song.  It never made sense to me, and still doesn't.  But, the first time I ever sang Folsom Prison Blues in front of her, I sort of expected her to call the authorities and report me for that murder in Reno.

Growing up in a rabid Southern Baptist household, the ex was taught that the Bible was literally true;  no symbolism, no analogy...just 100%, factual truth.  Apparently, this was drilled into her well enough that she assumed every form of written or oral communication followed suit. If I wrote a song along the lines of "guy sees girl, guy wants girl, girl turns guy down", she assumed I had propositioned some poor female on my lunch break and got shot down.

Even songs I wrote for and about her never withstood her scrutiny.  In the song "Missing You", which I wrote and recorded over Christmas break, the first year we were dating, I wrote:

     Got a Corvette in my garage
     Got a Harley on the street
     Got a good guitar
     Now, ain't that neat?

     Got all of these things
     Now, what can I do?
     Still I'm not happy
     'Cause I'm missing you!

At the time, the Corvette and Harley were the epitome of vehicles, to my mind, and she knew that.  So, even though I didn't actually own them, I used them to illustrate the fact that her presence would mean more to me than any material posession ever could.  For some reason, since I wrote that I had these things when I, in fact, did not, she took it to mean that if I ever got a Harley and a Vette I would have no more need of her.  She actually threw this idea into an argument we had about a week before we split up, 16 years later!

Fact of the matter is that "Missing You" was probably the most profoundly true song, figuratively and literally, that I had ever written, up to that point.  Other than the motor vehicles, virtually the whole song came from experience:  She was at her grandmother's house in Dallas, I wasn't, and I missed her greatly.

Why all the talk about a woman from whom I've been divorced for 12 years?  Well, my 25th wedding anniversary went by, this month, for one thing.  For another, this is one of the songs I plan to revisit as part of my recording project, and the concept of its continued truthfulness occurred to me as I was listening to the old recording of it.  In that (admittedly bad) vocal, I can hear the pain and loneliness I was feeling at the time.

So, will I be able to sing it, truthfully, at this late date?  I think so;  mainly because I do still miss that girl who was visiting her Grandma, 28 years ago, even though I don't miss the woman who divorced me 12 years ago.

Hell, there's a very true country song in there, somewhere.  Maybe I should write it out.



Oldfool said...

Born in pain, live in fear and die alone.
Life is a bitch ain't it?
Then you die.
I truly know what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

I miss that girl, too.