Family Values

The older I get, the more country music I listen to, and the more I like what I hear, whether songs about drinkin’, lovin’, shootin’, cheatin’, drinkin’ (again), prayin’, dyin’, bein’ locked up, and so on. And if I were one to make wild generalisations, I’d say that these songs, taken together, speak to the central problems of modern life better than any other comparable group in the Anglophone corpus, and they deserve to be celebrated for that.

But country music and I part company when it comes to sentimental ballads about parents. I like my parents very much, and don’t have anything bad to say about them — but, nevertheless, mushy songs about parents leave me cold. There’s even something about songs like “To Daddy” (recorded by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and, no doubt, others) that makes me want to throw up, its feminist politics notwithstanding.

Well, Norm has just posted the lyrics to Ronee Blakley’s song, “Idaho Home”, from Robert Altman’s Nashville (see this page, by the way, for a comprehensive plot summary of this magnificent film). Of it he writes, “Don’t mock. Or, at least, wait until you’ve actually heard it before you mock”. And I think that’s about right: although the genre of country songs about mom and dad is wholly mockable, I think this one is actually less vomit-inducing than the others.

Two can play the “reproducing the lyrics from the Nashville soundtrack” game, and my favourite, by a long way, is this excellent Henry Gibson number. (Again: do resist the temptation to mock… It’s well worth it.)

Unpack your bags and try not to cry.
I can’t leave my wife — there’s three reasons why.
There’s Jimmy, and Kathy, and sweet Lorelei…
For the sake of the children, we must say goodbye.
For the sake of the children, we must say goodbye.’Cos Jimmy’s been wishin’ that I’d take him fishin’
His Little League pitchin’ is something to see
And Kathy’s thirteen now; she’s my little queen now,
And I’ve gotta see who her beau’s gonna be.

So unpack your bags…

But you are my true love, the one that I do love,
But I’ve got to stay with the woman I wed.
Laurie’s just walkin’, she just started talkin’,
And Daddy’s the first word that she ever said!

Et cetera.

Great song. Great film.By way of a postscript, I’d have thought, incidentally, that the Ronee Blakley song from Nashville that would interest Norm the most would be her “Rolling Stone” — see here and here.

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