Friday, September 15, 2006

Cry Me a River

So George tagged me with a challenge: name five songs that make me cry. As it happens, I fancy myself a connoisseur of the lugubrious--I once made a mix tape for myself called Into the Oncoming Lane--so this one is definitely in my line. Some of what I came up with is obvious; at least one song is not; some of the gloomiest artists I love the most (Portishead, Joy Division) aren't on it because they don't actually make me cry. Part of the assignment is to explain why I'm so affected by these songs; I think I'll let the lyrics do most of the talking.

Anyway, here's my list:

  • Dave Alvin - Andersonville: Dave Alvin has written a pretty fair percentage of the songs that make me cry: California Snow, Between the Cracks, 4th of July, Dark Night, and a few others. It's a tough choice, but for me, Andersonville (yes, it's about the Andersonville, and I had a great-great grandfather there) trumps them all. The killer lines:
    I dream the same dream every night, of a woman I've never known.
    She's standing by a warm fireside, and she whispers that I've come home.
    And in the morning when I wake, I pray someday that she'll
    Lay a flower on my grave when I die in Andersonville.

  • Nick Cave - Sorrow's Child: Nick Cave is another one who could easily fill up this list on his own: The Weeping Song, As I Sat Sadly by Her Side, It Ain't Gonna Rain Anymore, and so on. A long time ago, I described Nick Cave as making Joy Division seem like Up With People. Any of these would be about equally appropriate here, but right now I'll take Sorrow's Child, about surrendering to despair. Because that's never far away.

  • Tears for Fears - Mad World: This song got to me even before Donnie Darko, so imagine what it does to me now. The lines that always get me:
    I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad;
    The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I ever had
    Yeah, I've been there.

  • Stan Ridgway - Camouflage: This is the oddball in the bunch. When I was a kid, my mother listened to a radio station that specialized in songs about people who encounter helpful strangers who turn out to be ghosts. That's how I remember it, anyway; it was probably some kind of country station, and those are the only songs I really noticed. Camouflage is Stan Ridgway's unironic, unabashedly corny homage to the genre...and corny as it is, it gets me every time...maybe (in part) because it connects me to that part of my childhood.

  • Thin White Rope - Christmas Skies: A stark, understated neo-country song about isolation and suicide at Christmastime:
    Tonight he walks through starlight to his cabin in the sky,
    Singing songs of Christmas for the folks he left behind
So there it is. I'm tagging Deborah, Karen M, and Ben Varkentine...but don't let that stop the rest of you from posting your own in comments.

Update: Deborah, Karen M, and Ben Varkentine have all posted theirs.

[That's all, folks]