Alvin Richardson

The music industry has made scads of money on songs that feature stories about relationships between men and women. The splendor and oftentimes raucous nature of bonds between the sexes is a natural fit for song lyrics because most people have at least a passing interest in it and everyone has an old love story to tell. Many of those stories are either fondly or painfully revisited when a familiar melody comes over the airwaves. 

No portion of the music business takes on this topic better than the writers of country and quasi-country songs. They have a flair for taking the romantic and making it genuinely moving, genuinely funny or even agonizing as the case may be.

Today, we will examine a few of these songs and try to discern what they actually mean in terms of the relationship/marriage bond. Sometimes the writers of these lyrics have hidden agendas and it is our duty to uncover the actual truth here.

Take for example the song “I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well.” This is a look at classic problems revolving around the early stages of dating. In this scenario, a guy was attracted to a girl who initially acted like she loved to dance and party. Alas, it was only a ruse. As things turned out, the female in question actually was more interested in curbing his appetite for beer and showing him off to her girlfriends at the opera.

Then there’s another old country standard titled “I Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim’s Getting Better.” This one discusses the age-old theme of jealousy run amuck. Girl dumps boy and gets herself another steady. That drives our boy to the brink of insanity and even though he still loves his ex he cannot abide by the thought of another man in her life. Thus, he takes his rifle off the gun rack in his truck and goes hunting.

And how about this one? “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” by Joe Nichols. In this little ditty, a guy’s lass is headed for a girl’s night out and he’s worried because he knows that if she drinks a particular cocktail that she will eventually wind up with a serious wardrobe malfunction. He is apprehensive about this because of the possibilities that this scenario raises. Maybe not strictly about jealously but close.

One of my personal favorites is “My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend and I Sure Do Miss Him.” Pretty obvious theme here. He really doesn’t care much for his wife and it’s OK if she decides to leave but it’s a blow when he discovers she took his best fishing and drinking buddy with her. He is now pining away for his lost friend.

Then there’s the old theme of bitterness in love and the insults that result from that bitterness. Perhaps no song describes this feeling better than Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn’s rendition of “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly.” In this one, the couple is living in a hostile state, which leads to each heaping insults on the other. To tell one’s spouse that it is their fault the kids are so repulsive is proof positive that marriage counseling is needed.

Of course, there are plenty of songs that regale solid marriages. Kinky Friedman has one titled “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed.” This is a heartwarming tale about a guy who loves his wife’s cooking and likes to snuggle. True love at its finest.

Then there’s “If Love Were Oil I’d Be About a Quart Low,” which is not so much a song as a soliloquy by the late, great Lewis Grizzard in which he laments the fact that none of his three wives ever truly understood him and thus never lavished any tender loving care upon him. He also bemoans the fact that because this was the case he remembers their names only as “plaintiff.”

I suppose the lesson here is that if you have a stable, loving relationship just keep on doing what you are doing. If there are irreconcilable differences perhaps you need to get out of it before someone writes a song about you and entitles it “If You Won’t Leave Me Alone I’ll Go and Find Someone Else Who Will.” 

Finally, there’s the Lewis Grizzard mantra about relationships. After his third marriage failed, the old rogue said something along these lines: “I think I’d be better off just finding a woman I hate and buying her a house.”  

Country singer Jerry Reed echoed those sentiments with his song “She Got the Gold Mine, I Got the Shaft.”

I suppose that there’s a melody and a title to fit everyone’s story and our personal accounts of unrequited love oftentimes bear witness to some of the most memorable or forgettable moments of our lives. Thus the music industry will flourish while continuing with titles such as “I’ll Marry You Tomorrow, But Let’s Honeymoon Tonight” and other tales of our romantic interludes.

And ain’t it fun to just remember.


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