When I first heard Willie Nelson croon this little tune, I thought, “You have got to be kidding!” I mean, is he serious? Is this supposed to make her feel better? Think about it! What exactly is he saying? Hmmm. . .Let’s see. She was always on his mind. Nice. He packed his bags, hopped on a jet, went to Europe – or wherever, and did whatever; just generally had a good old time while she was left behind with the kids, the house, the pets, and the bills. But that’s all OK, because she was on his mind! Doesn’t that make it all better? I mean, doesn’t that make everyone wanna forgive him? I get misty-eyed and warm and gooey inside just thinking about how she was always on his mind.
Owing to the enormous and lingering popularity of the song, it appears that I am the only person who feels this way about it. I still find that hard to believe. This song keeps popping up annoyingly on muzak systems across the nation, particularly in grocery stores. The syrupy, all- strings arrangement always gives me pause. An image pops into my mind of a young bedraggled-looking woman with three little children and “another one on the way.” She has just parked her ten-year-old rusted and dented car at the airport lot, rounded up her kids, and is headed for the baggage claim area of the airport to greet her husband who is returning to her and his family after an extended leave of absence. (From the looks of her, I’d say he’s been away about seven or eight months.) Just before his plane lands, she makes a quick dash into the ladies’ room, in order to run a comb through her hair and apply some lipstick. She wants to look her best! After all, he’s coming home – for a while at least. So he sees her, and taking off his hat, he presents her with a half-dead bunch of flowers from an airport concession cooler, and begins his little song and dance routine:
“He might not have loved her quite as often as he could have, he didn’t treat her quite as good as he should have, he treated her as second best, he’s sorry he was blind, he didn’t hold her when she was lonely, or tell her she made him happy; the little things he should have said and done, he never did – yadda, yadda, yadda – but hold off any judgment! She was ALWAYS ON HIS MIND!” Therefore, she would just naturally melt at that sentiment, and give him one more chance to keep her satisfied. Oh, PULEEZE! Say, do you think maybe my reaction is a little over the top? Well, maybe, but OH, COME ON!!!!! She was always on his mind? Sheesh!
This brings to mind one other annoying song that has continually made the muzak circuit since it was first written about 30 years ago. Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” Now don’t get me wrong here. I believe that I am a very patriotic American. I am glad to be an American, even though there are times when that is an embarrassment as well. I’m not sure where being “proud” of it – as though I should receive a pat on the back – comes into the picture. It’s not like I had a choice in the matter. But I am grateful that I am an American citizen. I know that I personally have been afforded all sorts of privileges that are not available in other countries; and I am eternally grateful for the sacrifices that were made to secure those privileges and liberties. Here is where the song and I part company, however:
“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free,” Yes, I am an American, and I am free. Stress I. The fact that such theoretical freedom has not been, in practical application, secured for every citizen – not just in our own country, but everywhere – gives me no sense of pride whatsoever. I am quite certain that Mr. Greenwood probably did not intend his heartfelt song to sound so insufferably self-satisfied and smug, but that is exactly the way I hear it – every time. I cringe every time I hear it, and wonder at the emotion and sentiment that is evident on so many faces as they hear this song played or sung. I have even gone so far as to attempt the writing of alternate and more appropriate lyrics for this song, but I have been unable to come up with any that I like. (Small wonder – I don’t like the tune, either!)
In the USA, you are pretty much guaranteed – these days anyway – of a hit song if you can set some sloppy patriotic lyrics to a catchy tune, and get some country boy to sing it. (Wow! Is that as cynical as I think it is?) My own tune- and lyric-smithing abilities lean more universal than local. I feel that it is fine to be proud of your homeland – as long as you recognize that everyone has reason to have pride in their nations. Each July 4 (and other times), I love to sing a hymn called “This is My Song.” One of the verses was written by the great Georgia Harkness, and it goes like this:
“My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight gleams on cloverleaf and pine
But other lands have sunlight, too, and clover
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine!
This is my prayer, oh God of all the nations:
A song of peace for their land and for mine.”
Now, I could probably go on from here and give you a big song and dance about some other annoying songs. I won’t. But getting my “rant” out has helped somewhat. Sonya helped me with this one too, although I had to intervene a couple of times. She wanted to go in a direction that I did not. Gee! That even happens in my dreams these days. . .am I supposed to be getting some kind of message here? Guess I need to start paying better attention, but later. For now, though, with tongue firmly in cheek, I wish you all, my Gentle Readers, enough. . .