Saturday, January 9, 2016

Story Songs: Lonely and Lonesome Tunes

While driving my car the other day and listening to the local oldies station (93.5 FM), Rick Nelson's "Lonesome Town" played softly through the speakers.

His voice conveyed the feelings of breaking up with someone you love (teen angst), beginning with the opening verse:

"There's a place where lovers go
To cry their troubles away
And they call it 'Lonesome Town"
Where the broken hearts stay"

The song (No. 7 on Billboard in 1958) lingered in my mind for quite a while as I thought about other tunes I like with "lonely" and "lonesome" in the title.  So here a few I've enjoyed through the years:

One of Elvis' early hits was "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" in 1960, recorded after his discharge from the army. The song, written in 1926 by Roy Turk and Lou Handman, was a chart topper for the King.

"Are you lonesome tonight,
Do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart?"

If any singer could express loneliness and sadness, it was Roy Orbison. His "Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)," a No. 2 song for the balladeer in 1960. 

"There goes my baby
There goes my heart
They're gone forever
So far apart"

Jackie Wilson is almost in tears (figuratively) as he belts out "Lonely Teardrops," a No. 7 song in 1958. It was also the last song Wilson performed live before collapsing on a stage in 1975, suffering a heart attack. He died nine years later.

"My heart is crying, crying
Lonely teardrops,
My pillow's never dry of lonely teardrops
Come home, come home
Just say you will, say you will"

Singer-songwriter James Taylor reached No. 14 on the charts in 1973 with "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight."

"You ain't gonna see me getting down on my knees
I'm undecided and your heart's been divided
You've been turning my world upside down"

My all-time favorite "lonesome" song is Hank Williams Sr.'s penned "I'm So Lonely I Could Cry," a tune even Elvis said was "probably the saddest song I ever heard." It's not a song to listen to if you're really depressed because it will make you cry along with the singer.

"Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die?
Like me, he's lost the will to live
I'm so lonesome I could cry"

My favorite version is by B.J. Thomas, which reached No. 8 on the charts in 1966.

Yes, these are songs about sadness, but they're also contemplative in expressing emotions that we all share in our lives. 

Any favorite "lonely" and "lonesome" songs?

Until the next time.... 

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