Tuesday, May 15, 2018


I think this song was in a country songbook I owned but I'd never heard the song so I didn't bother playing it. Then I ran across the song again in another songbook and decided it was time. The lyrics were intimidating and now that I've learned it I know why I steered clear earlier. This is some long long phrasing for a country song, but that's what gives the song its uniqueness. It's like a whole paragraph that only has two rhymes. 

"She played tambourine with a silver jingle and she must've known the words to at least a million TUNES. 
But the one most requested by the man she knew as Cowboy was the late night benediction at the Y'all come back SALOON."

Two rhymes. Tune and Saloon. But that's a lot of words to remember without a rhyme. I sort of learn songs by memorizing how the lyrics rhyme together but other times I need different approach. For example, the song "The Weight" by The Band has 5 different verses. So, how do I avoid singing the wrong verse, since the story isn't exactly linear? Well, the first verse is "I pulled into Nazareth..." The second verse starts where the first verse ended when the narrator got denied a bed, "So I picked up my bag..." And in that second verse is a line "I said 'Hey there Carmen, come on let's go downtown'..." and I used that line to remember that the third verse starts with "Go Down Moses there ain't nothing you can say..." because the word Go is in the second verse. The hard part of the third verse is not singing, "...nothing you can DO" Because that word rhymes with "judgement Day in the next line and if I sing DO then it will not rhyme with Day. The Fourth verse still throws me because I sometimes get nervous and start to sing the fifth verse. IF I do that then I have to sing the 4th verse last. But the fourth verse is "Crazy Chester followed me..." How do I remember that? Because of the way Levon Helm sings it in this affected southern accent and this is my one chance to ham up my southern accent in the song as I impersonate Helm impersonating Crazy Chester. The fifth verse starts "Catch the Cannonball and take it down the line..." referring to a train, I think. The train is leaving the station so this verse gets sung last. But each line of the verse is rhymed with the last word in the line so it's easy to remember the words once I remember the start of each verse. However, with this Oak Ridge Boys tune, there are only 2 rhyming words in each of the first two verses. The third verse doesn't have any rhymes but still works. And the rest are sung in this effortless story telling style that tells the story but don't rhyme, so the singer has nothing to do but remember what he is singing because the rhymes don't happen often enough to help. I simply break it down into sections...we introduce the audience to the singer who plays tambourine in a smoky bar...then we demonstrate that all the patrons in the bar actually pause when she starts her version of Faded Love, in some kind of moment of prayer to lost love. The Bridge is actually a blatant reference to the song Faded Love and its context within this song. The last verse introduces the nameless cowboy and gives some context to why he requests this song and how he always leaves the bar after it is played. I break the song into those three stages... Bar Singer...Bob Wills...Cowboy...and I get through the song ok.

It took me many many attempts to record this song without any mistakes. And there are only 4 or 5 chords! But the lyrics are not easy to remember.

This song is probably the best country western song because it manages to include a lonely cowboy, pinball, Amarillo, a bar singer, smoke, booze, a clever melody metaphor and it pays tribute to Bob Wills (Faded Love is a BW song) all in 3 verses. My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys is my second favorite country western tune.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.