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October 13, 2005 / Maleesha Kovnesky

The Saddest Song of All

Most of what is played on the radio these days is garbage. I am a fan of hard rock, but I tend to like the fun stuff – some Black Crowes (hard to handle) or some Georgia Satellites (gotta li’l change in my pocket, go’in jingalingaling) and I have even been known to like some Zombie (at least until someone tells me what a dragula is). In today’s world of canned and planned radio, there seems to be four choices:

POP – Personally, I don’t WANT to hear Justin Timberlake talk about getting naked. Gross. And I REALLY don’t want to hear it fourteen times a day.

RAP/HIP-HOP – some of this is catchy but most of it is NASTY. I mean, SICK.

LATINO – This stuff can be great! But since I don’t understand it, I don’t tune in.

COUNTRY– The least offensive of the crowd, yet twangy and depressing.

And therein is the problem. There isn’t a lot to pick from, and these days I am usually driving around with a young, impressionable innocent soul in the backseat. I am tired of my CD collection, so today I was trying to choose a radio station from the four genres listed above. I settled on a country station, since there it would be unlikely that I would hear fifteen different slang words for a schlong.

I grew up listening to country music on AM radio. This was not because I wanted to, but because that’s darn near all they had in Montana. It was either tune in to the livestock auction or listen to a little Hank Williams. Another reason I listened to country is that my parents listened to it, and they controlled the radio stations. (It wasn’t like today where children often dictate what is heard and watched.) Anyway, it’s been a long time since I really listened to country. From what I heard today, country has really undergone a metamorphosis. But instead of turning into a butterfly, it’s emerged from the cocoon depressed and in great need of Xanax.

Maybe you have heard this joke: What do you get when you play a country song backward? You get your job back, your wife back, your home back, and your dog comes back to life! But today it was so much worse. I mean, I wanted to drive off the cliff after listening to three songs! The lyrics…oh, the dreadful, aching lyrics. Take Tim McGraw’s latest hit, Live Like You Were Dying:

I was in my early 40’s,

With a lot of life before me,

And a moment came that stopped me on a dime.

I spent most of the next days, lookin’ at the x-rays,

Talkin’ ’bout the options and talkin’ ’bout sweet time

Ol’ Tim then continues to sing about climbing mountains, watching eagles, and going fishing with the time you have left. I may not be describing it so it sounds as sad as it is, but add some twang and a country voice and we are talking sad, miserable stuff.
Then I heard a song called Somebody’s Hero by Jamie O’Neal. This little ditty is about a stay at home mother who spends her whole life taking care of her daughter – she is her daughter’s hero, if you will. Then at the end of the song, the roles are reversed:

She’s somebody’s hero

A hero to her mother in a rockin’ chair

She runs a brush through her silver hair

The envy of the nursing home

She drops by every afternoon

Feeds her mama with a spoon

Right after those two doozies, I heard a Randy Travis song called Three Wooden Crosses. This one topped them all in the sad category:

A farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher,

Ridin’ on a midnight bus bound for Mexico.

One’s headed for vacation,

one for higher education,

And two of them were searchin’ for lost souls.

That driver never ever saw the stop sign.

An’ eighteen wheelers can’t stop on a dime.

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway,

Why there’s not four of them, Heaven only knows.

I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you,

It’s what you leave behind you when you go.

That was the last straw. I kid you not, my one-year old was solemn, staring out the car window. He never does that. Even at his young age, he can sense the futility of country music. I turned off the radio and drove the rest of the way in silence. Or it would have been silent, had AJ not started wailing. He was probably thinking about those three wooden crosses.

What happened to old time country? Alabama’s Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler) ends with Daddy coming home. Who can get sad about a burnin’ ring of fire? Or a boy named Sue? Or being on the road again? Hell, even Martina McBride got to burn down her abusive father’s house in Independence Day. You just can’t find that happy ending in today’s country music, apparently.

So what is a mom to do? Do I keep the radio tuned into country, and risk raising a depressed and morbid child? Or do I tune it back to some serious rock, and stand back while my child chooses black leather clothing and tattoos of scorpions? That Spanish station is looking better and better. Maybe AJ would turn out to be bilingual.

I guess I am wondering how other people feel about country music. Am I strange for wanting to burst into tears listening to this stuff? Am I the only one disturbed when I hear Randy Travis’s preacher “place the bloodstained bible in to that hooker’s hands?” Have years of rock and grunge hardened me to where a small dose of country is completely unbearable? Am I not capable of “living like I am dying?” Would I want to be? And most importantly, will satellite radio save the day?

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