Weeks ago, before Mom got so sick, I was drinking a little wine and listening to a little Willie Nelson, feeling a little melancholy and thinking about my Daddy and Grammy. (Man, that sounds like way more activity than it actually was. All those gerunds!) This naturally led to me listening to the saddest Willie songs I could find, and I turned to this duet with Janis Ian that BFF turned me onto on a mix CD of songs about Memphis.*
While this easily qualifies as one of the Saddest Song I Have Ever Heard, it evokes the place so beautifully it just makes me want to go there even more. It is one of the holy pilgrimages for Rock fans. This song paints such a sweetly sorrowful portrait of a place that time and economics may have passed by, but which holds such magic. I’m sure if I ever get there, it’ll be a lot like many other cities, with tourist traps and Starbucks on every other corner; with parts that are so run down they’re almost ruins; with suburbs and parks and schools and churches. But this is where Sam Phillips and Sun Records made their mark on the world, where so many greats were launched. And it’s home to a lot of people, something this song reminds us. “If you could see Memphis the way that I do, she would look different to you. The Queen of the Delta, tip your tiara, to Memphis the Belle of the Blues.”
*We used to talk about making a list of all the great songs about Memphis and playing it on a road trip there. BFF finally gathered a bunch of them, many that I’d never heard before, and gave me the CD for Christmas one year, I think.