Music City at Night

Music City at Night
Nashville: the City Where Some Dreams Begin and Others Die...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Three Types of S. O. B.

In 2012, Alan Jackson released a new single, "You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore," penned by songwriters Jay Knowles and Adam Wright. The knockout line for most folks was "I'll be the S. O. B." in the first verse.

This great song was included on Jackson's album Thirty Miles West that same year.

IMHOP there are at least three kinds of S. O. B. -- (1) the person who consistently by his deeds and words is a true S. O. B., (2) the person who makes a stupid mistake that hurts someone or a group, and (3) the person who deliberately plays the role of S. O. B. to get something done.

(1) First, there's the real, authentic S. O. B.  Most of us have known a few. They might be in our family or maybe we worked for them or with them. But they're pretty good at disguises and deception so some of them go into politics. :-)  I don't think I personally belong in this category (although I know a few people who might disagree).

(2) As for category 2, I guess most of us have done or said something stupid a few times in our lives. I know I have, and I still remember and regret those times today. I've made some mistakes, said some stupid things that hurt someone. I can't go back and erase those things, all I can do now is accept my mistake and hope for forgiveness.

(3) At other times a person plays the role of S. O. B. in order to do a job. I'm thinking for example of the executive or administrator who because of circumstances has to fire someone, or of the military TI who has to discipline a recruit, etc. I've been in this category at least a couple of times, but it was over fifteen years ago, so the statue of limitations has probably run out.

The narrator in Jackson's song fits in this category as well. He's willing to play the S. O. B. role if it will make his lady's life easier after their breakup. The Knowles/Wright lyric is simple and unadorned, but emotionally -- very powerful. To illustrate, here's that first verse:
I'll be the bad guy, I'll take the black eye, When I walk out, You can slam the door, I'll be the S.O.B, If that's what you need from me, So you don't have to love me anymore. 
This great song has it all. A son of a bitch (at least a guy willing to play that role), a breakup, a broken heart, a sacrifice, a sense of regret...the very life blood of country music. And then there's the great singer who brought all that emotion to life -- Alan Jackson. All that makes it a top 100 country song in my book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Songwriter Wisdom I

“A song ain’t nothin’ in the world but a story just wrote with music to it.”
Hank Williams, Sr.

“Loving is the only sure road out of darkness, 
the only serum known that cures self-centeredness.”
Rod McKuen

"I am putting to music and words things that angered me and hurt me."
Nanci Griffith

“Country Music is three chords and the truth.”
Harlan Howard

 “It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.”
Dolly Parton

"I was rolling cars and wrecking motorcycles, drinking and doing everything I could to die early. But it didn't work."
Kris Kristofferson

"Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I've had to make myself."
Shel Silverstein

I don’t know why I write really depressing songs.
I’m a kind of melancholy guy, I suppose. But I figure I’m about normal.”
Townes Van Zandt

Monday, October 5, 2015

Kris Kristofferson and Jonathan Swift Talk Poetry

The narrator in Kristofferson's talking blues song, "To Beat the Devil," says,
It was winter time in Nashville, down on Music City row,
And I was lookin' for a place to get myself out of the cold.
He says, "It'd been a month of paydays" since he's been paid and his "hungry needed beans." He steps inside a tavern and begins a conversation with an old man in a bar who tells him that songwriter poets' lead a "tough life" and asks the narrator, why waste your time speaking the truth to people who don't listen.

The narrator recognizes that this is the devil he's talking to and that "the devil haunts a hungry man."

So, in the end, the songwriter narrator doesn't claim to have "beat the devil," but he "drank his beer for nothing./ Then I stole his song." In other words, instead of giving in to the devil because he's hungry, he makes poetry out of it.

Listening to this song again recently reminded me of a poem by Jonathan Swift, the Anglo-Irish writer best known for Gulliver's Travels. In "The Progress of Poetry," Swift says pretty much the same thing Kristofferson says. He compares the poet to a goose who when fat "with corn and sitting still," can't "get o'er the barn-door sill," but when forced to look for food and exercise will eventually grow "lank and spare" which will enable her to successfully try "her wings" and take flight.

Both poets indicate that poetry is born from hunger and suffering and that success and riches might work against its creation. This explains why a successful songwriter's earliest work might be much better than that which comes after he's achieved success and has grown fat "with corn and sitting still."

Here's Swift's poem (you can find it and other poetry at The Literature Network).
The Progress of Poetry
The farmer's goose, who in the stubble
Has fed without restraint or trouble,
Grown fat with corn and sitting still,
Can scarce get o'er the barn-door sill;
And hardly waddles forth to cool
Her belly in the neighbouring pool!
Nor loudly cackles at the door;
For cackling shows the goose is poor.
But, when she must be turn'd to graze,
And round the barren common strays,
Hard exercise, and harder fare,
Soon make my dame grow lank and spare;
Her body light, she tries her wings,
And scorns the ground, and upward springs;
While all the parish, as she flies,
Hear sounds harmonious from the skies.

Such is the poet fresh in pay,
The third night's profits of his play;
His morning draughts till noon can swill,
Among his brethren of the quill:
With good roast beef his belly full,
Grown lazy, foggy, fat, and dull,
Deep sunk in plenty and delight,
What poet e'er could take his flight?
Or, stuff'd with phlegm up to the throat,
What poet e'er could sing a note?
Nor Pegasus could bear the load
Along the high celestial road;
The steed, oppress'd, would break his girth,
To raise the lumber from the earth.
But view him in another scene,
When all his drink is Hippocrene,
His money spent, his patrons fail,
His credit out for cheese and ale;
His two-years coat so smooth and bare,
Through every thread it lets in air;
With hungry meals his body pined,
His guts and belly full of wind;
And, like a jockey for a race,
His flesh brought down to flying case:
Now his exalted spirit loathes
Encumbrances of food and clothes;
And up he rises like a vapour,
Supported high on wings of paper.
He singing flies, and flying sings,
While from below all Grub-Street rings.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Nashville Indie Writer Wins Top Award

Nashville, TN. October 3, 2015. There's poetry in Music City. Writer Dan Jewell’s collection of poems, A Nashville Woman and Other Sorrows, received the highest award given in the love/romance poetry category of the international 2015 Readers Favorite competition. This year’s contest was the largest ever with thousands of entries ranging from indie authors to NYT bestsellers and authors.

Jewell’s poems tell the story of a Nashville songwriter whose life spirals downward after he loses the woman he loves. The collection also includes poems and songs about rejection, writer’s block, pickup trucks, Taylor Swift, cowboys, and the struggles of the dreamers who come to Nashville seeking fame and fortune. Readers Favorite Reviewer Lorelai Rivers gives the book a five star rating and says, “These poems ring true, as though author Dan Jewell has first-hand experience of the hope and heartbreak of being a working or non-working, musician/songwriter.”

Jewell says that some of the poems and songs were written over thirty-five years ago. “I was born in Nashville, so songwriting was in the very air I breathed every day. It was only natural that I would try my hand at it. My wife and I cut a demo of some of my songs once in the old Woodland Studio, a legendary place where artists like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Shania Twain once recorded.”

But, like most of the other dreamers in Nashville, Jewell says his songs went nowhere. “This collection of poems is about those women and men as much as anything, the ones who come here and struggle but keep at it, and the others who don’t make it in music but end up making a life for themselves instead. We know more than we want to know about all the ones who make it big. It’s the others I write for.”

Music fans, aspiring songwriters and performers, and anyone whose dreams didn’t quite materialize will enjoy this provocative book. More information about the book and the author can be found on the website Nashville Woman & Other Sorrows is available as an eBook on Kindle and Nook, and in paperback (68 pages) on

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

There's Poetry in Music City

There's poetry in Nashville, Music City.

Many country music songs are poetry in the oldest and most traditional sense. But there's also poetry in the struggles of those who make the music, in the beautiful city of Nashville itself, and in the hearts and souls of those anonymous dreamers who arrive here daily seeking success in the industry.

A Nashville Woman and Other Sorrows is a book of poems, over thirty-five years in the making, which recently received the highest award given in the love/romance category of the 2015 International Readers Favorite contest.

These simply worded, mostly narrative poems describe the experiences of a Nashville songwriter and musician whose life spirals downward after he loses the woman he loves. He stops for awhile in a mental place he refers to as The Catatonic Hotel before he eventually finds his way back to writing and living again.

Other poems in the collection tell the stories of those involved in the day to day struggles of those trying to make it in the music business and others who come to Music City filled with hope and dreams but end up marginalized, desperately hanging on the edges of the bright, glittering life they aspire to.

Readers Favorite Reviewer Lorelai Rivers gives the book a five star rating and says, “These poems ring true, as though author Dan Jewell has first-hand experience of the hope and heartbreak of being a working or non-working, musician/songwriter…These snippets of life, feelings, moments, scenes, and snapshots read to me like an epic song put together with the best book openings and chapter closings from every great novel never yet written.”

Another Readers Favorite Reviewer, Jack Magnus, says, “Jewell’s words are spare and eloquent, conveying worlds within a few well-placed words. While suffused with melancholy and loss, these poems also hint at redemption.”

A Nashville Woman & Other Sorrows is available in these formats: Kindle, ebook, Create Space, paperback, 68 pagesNook eBook.