I have to confess that one of my favorite singers of all time is Tammy Wynette. Her voice is just so full and rich, and glides over your senses like...I don't know what, I'm bad with metaphors, but like something nice and warm and lovely.
Tonight Dylan and I watched the episode of The Simpsons where Homer befriends Lurlene, the country singer, and he rockets her to stardom, but then at the end, despite his temptation, realizes that he only loves Marge. I seriously got tears in my eyes when he goes back to Marge and Lurlene sings the song on live TV about how she just lost her Homer. Anyway, "Lurlene" is clearly modeled after Tammy Wynette, and the episode made me bust out the one Tammy Wynette CD I have and listen to it while I was fixing dinner.
Hillary Clinton once decried "Stand by Your Man" as the most insipid and most unempowering song ever written, and part of me agrees with her, but another part of me wants to tell her to lighten the fuck up. It's definitely in my top 10 of favorite songs ever, but honestly, I can see her point.
But check this shit out:
There's a weird part of my brain that I have to turn off when I listen to Tammy Wynette, and that's the side of me that wants to tell her to stop being such a cry-baby and a victim and a doormat, and just get the fuck out. But then I realized that that's the true beauty of her music.
Anybody who listens to old country just has to get over the fact that it's completely mysoginistic, and if people talked about homos back then, I'm sure it would have been incredibly homophobic as well. But the thing that appeals to me about that (at least the songs written for women, and Wynette's seem to be a little worse at crying about victimhood than most of the others) is that they're totally visceral and just... so fucking sad. Which is of course why I love them. There's no pretense, there's no bullshit, the songs are just about pure, unadulterated emotion, right from the gut.
Take one of my favorite songs of Wynette's, "My Arms Stay Open Late," for instance. The first line of the song is, "The baby cries/I could almost die from lonesome." The entire song is about how she's stuck at home taking care of some schmuck's baby while he's out carousing around, drinking, and having a good time. But nevertheless, there she is at home, the loyal wife, waiting up until dawn to greet him. One of the concluding lines is, "But when the lights of Broadway go off/and every honky-tonk is closed up/My arms stay open late/So you'll come home."
Another song, "It Keeps Slipping My Mind," is all about how she keeps meaning to tell her husband/boyfriend/whatever he is that he's neglecting her, she's lonely, and she wants to leave him, but, well, she just keeps forgetting because darn it, she just loves him so much.
Yet another one, "It's My Way," is all about how she thinks her husband/boyfriend/whatever he is is cheating on her, and there's evidence, but if she freaks out and accuses him of it, and he's hurt, well, she's real sorry. That's just her way of loving him. By being hysterical and ignoring evidence that he is, in fact, cheating on her???
The closest any of her songs that I'm familiar with come to about taking a stand on anything, which happens to be my #2 favorite Wynette song, is called "I'm Only a Woman," except that, well....she's the other woman in the song. And the man won't leave his wife, so she's putting her foot down about it. And leaving him, because she knows that he'll never leave his wife. So, yeah, there's still sort of that victimization aspect of it. But, I mean, who can resist a line like, "Don't you know it hurts to know her arms will hold you/Don't you know how much I wish those arms were mine!" In the most pained voice imaginable.
I realize things were very different back then, but good God, it wasn't the stone ages! But like I said before, it's the pure Sadness of these songs that really gets to me, and, I suspect, everyone that listens to this crap. They're good songs; they're catchy, mid-tempo, incredibly melodic, and her voice! Ah! It's amazing. And it all seems so genuine. And despite what anyone may say to the contrary, I think we've all had these kinds of feelings for people, or been in these terrible situations that we didn't want to leave for one reason or another. It's a universal sentiment, but so few people ever want to admit that they've been that weak, or vulnerable, or just...that in love before. Or, frankly, are that comfortable playing a victim. So that's why I'm so happy Tammy does it for me.
But then again, speaking of victimhood, there's this....