This is just such a lovely, lovely song. And sad. And hopeful. Although I don’t know where the hope comes from. Maybe somewhere deep inside, a wellspring of human spirit that refuses to be defeated in the face of all obstacles.
At first glance, it might not seem like singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt had a lot of reason to be hopeful. A car accident paralyzed him when he was a teenager, but he retained enough movement in his hands that he could still play guitar. Chesnutt is one of those musicians that other musicians listen to, but he never really achieved much mainstream success. His music seems so personal, the emotions and references so private. He struggled with health problems related to his injuries and the expense of medical care. (Chesnutt was considered “uninsurable” because of his paralysis. The ACA would’ve helped him since it makes denying coverage for pre-existing conditions illegal.) He attempted suicide several times, finally succeeding in 2009.
Thirteen years before his death, a group of musicians got together to record a handful of Chesnutt’s songs for Sweet Relief, an organization that helps musicians without insurance receive the medical care they need and deserve. (The Chesnutt tribute was the second charity album they released, the first one being 1993’s compilation benefiting Victoria Williams. Both are titled Sweet Relief.) That’s where the Nanci Griffith-Hootie & the Blowfish version of “The Gravity of the Situation” comes from. Chesnutt’s version is just as good. (Arguably better, since it’s his song, but I came to it through the cover, so that’s always going to be my preference.) I don’t know anything about the origins of this song, or if it’s based on any real people or incidents from Chesnutt’s life. I only know it feels me with sadness and hope whenever I hear it.