When Glenn Campbell died the other day, I asked our newsroom staffers how many times they thought they would hear “Rhinestone Cowboy” that evening. The song had already been featured in about three newscasts about the songwriter’s death, so I was betting the number of times it would be heard on the day his death was announced would be high.
I lost count for myself after about ten. But then, I listened to it on my way home, so that probably shouldn’t count. I am a sucker for a good songwriter. Whether they write country songs, pop songs, hard rock songs or even some rap songs, matters not. I like a song that can tell me a whole story with its lyrics while it transports me with its music.
Campbell certainly had a way of doing that. I have a soft spot for Campbell’s music because I grew up listening to it. And as I was going about my chores at home the other day, found all of his hits on YouTube and reintroduced myself. Along the way, I also visited with a few other great songwriters including James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg and Tom T. Hall. Then I happened upon the song that stops me in my tracks whenever it happens to come on within hearing range.
Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is a masterpiece of songwriting, but really of writing in general. The music makes it a song, but the tight, descriptive writing makes it feel like a novel or a movie. Every word counts and builds the vision of the life of a sailor in peril and the grief of the people left behind.
There are several phrases in the song that give me the chills no matter how much I listen to it. One of my favorites is, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes / When the waves turn the minutes into hours?”
It is heartbreaking and poetic and beautiful all rolled into one. And just when one thinks the heart couldn’t break further, it is followed up with “All that remains is the faces and the names / Of the wives, the sons and the daughters.”
Happy birthday Wednesday to Sally Stowers Oliver of Monroe, Louisiana; Robert L. Hall III and Tom Whitley, both of Denison; Larry Cripps, Jordon Jones, and Bert Furlow Jr. all of Sherman and Julia McCollom of McKinney.