Western Swing: July 2005 Archives

Goin' away party


I asked for, but didn't receive, any Western Swing music on CD for Father's Day -- it's hard to find in the stores -- so when I was in Best Buy in Little Rock last week, I looked to see if they had anything interesting. The choice was between "Bob Wills: For the Last Time" and Asleep at the Wheel's "Ride with Bob". Hmm. The former seemed a little too sad to bear thinking about -- it was recorded in December 1973 just before (the very day) Bob Wills suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma, in which he lingered until his death in 1975. The latter -- well, the playlist includes some of the great Texas Playboys hits, and I love Asleep at the Wheel, but the use of big-name country stars (and some crossovers from other genres, like the Squirrel Nut Zippers -- which name makes me wince) seemed too gimmicky.

Nevertheless, I picked "Ride with Bob". A full review will have to wait, but I'm glad I did. It brightened the long drive home, and it's getting a lot of play since I got back. (My son has been thoroughly amused at dad wearing headphones and singing along to "Cherokee Maiden", which features some clever lyrics and catchy drumwork.) Most of the selections struck the right balance between faithfulness to the spirit of the original recordings and bringing something fresh to the music. It reflects the tremendous respect that the guest artists have for Bob Wills.

The surprise of the album was the final selection: Willie Nelson, backed by the Manhattan Transfer, singing "Goin' Away Party." The song was written by Cindy Walker, whose 70-year-and-counting songwriting career includes the aforementioned "Cherokee Maiden," "Dream Baby," and that classic of unconfessed, unrequited love, "You Don't Know Me." The song was written for the aforementioned "For the Last Time" album.

(Here's a touching account of a 2004 tribute to Cindy Walker -- at age 85, she sang and danced, too. Here are some photos of the event.)

The song opens with a bit of lush Santo-and-Johnny-esque guitar, a pair of melancholy fiddles, and then the ooohs of the Manhattan Transfer bring in Willie's lead vocal.

I don't always enjoy Willie Nelson as a vocalist, but it was his hit with Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" and his "Stardust" album that introduced me to the Great American Songbook, and he brings the same sensibility to this piece. The cracks and trembles in his voice fit the heartbreaking lyrics:

I'm throwin'
A goin' away party,
A party for a dream of mine.
So put me somewhere off in a corner
With a glass and bottle of your party wine.

Don't worry --
It won't be a loud party
I feel too low to get too high.
It's just a sad goin' away party
For a dream that I'm tellin' goodbye.

I'm throwin'
A goin' away party,
A party for a dream of mine.
Nobody's comin' but a heartache
And some tears will drop in now most any time.

Don't worry --
It won't be a loud party.
Dreams don't make noise when they die.
It's just a sad goin' away party
For a dream that I'm tellin' goodbye.

Goodness! You can almost feel yourself choking back the sobs -- "Dreams don't make noise when they die." Which is true.

My kids are too blessedly, blissedly young to understand what this song is about. I wish I still were. The other day they saw a "Feats of Strength" demonstration at the library -- a secularized, motivational version of "The Power Team". The speaker bent an inch-thick bar of steel in his teeth, broke through some bricks with his fist, among other feats designed to illustrate concepts like perseverance and resisting peer pressure.

My son told me about one feat involving a tug-of-war: The point was to hold on to your dreams as other people try to snatch them away from you. I was afraid for a moment that my son might ask me what my dreams are, and I didn't want to have to tell him that I don't have any anymore. I have high hopes for him and his sister, of course, but I am at the point in my life where my course is pretty well locked in from here on out. Life at 41 is about fulfilling responsibilities, not dreaming of possibilities, and the few flights of fancy I've allowed myself have crashed and burned. It's safer not to dream, and eventually, mercifully, you forget how. A song like "Goin' Away Party" makes the disillusionment a little easier to take, knowing you're not the only one who's said farewell to your dreams.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Western Swing category from July 2005.

Western Swing: March 2005 is the previous archive.

Western Swing: August 2005 is the next archive.

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