Why country music makes you cry, and rock and roll doesn’t: A musical interpretation of divided America.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
In Nashville Tennessee songwriter named Bobby Braddock he's in his 70s. Maybe five foot seven bald head scruffy beard wiry like if you mess with him in a bar, he probably lose the most striking thing about him is his eyes, which of the palest to most intense shade of blue. He wears sunglasses a lot and it's almost as if he needs to protect the world. From that look I met him on music grow in Nashville, we had lunch, and then we sat in one of the writers rooms in the Sony Building piano in the corner, couches to one side, and he talked about his education in he's business. Like always, Heather reputation has been Campbell, Corky Writer, maybe a little left feel the turning point in products. Career was a song. You problem heard of he was performed by Tammy. Why net back when she was the reigning queen of country, music, nineteen sixty
eight about a mom who had to spell out the word de ivy, o r c, so her kids wouldn't know their parents were splitting up So there you are so yeah, The steady them on no tankers abided by record DE I view our sea was a song with a gimmick. Braddock did a lot of gimmick he songs back. Then. No one wanted this one so I went to a friend, longtime collaborator, curly Potman, so why the boy. Regarding, I think rather important part. It is shown said Sir Song in your melodies and that borders too happy I was doing
stop this or that locker soap, commercial, simple. What would you do the negotiator, hideous, mournful, singing style Tammy when there was a big fan of curly saying she left? You say: because here I mean just the same just so sad yeah we did she guitar was. Well, don't I I, the OECD went to number one. It was Bobby Braddock, first great exercise in how to make people cry and from then on things just got sadder
My name is Malcolm Gladwell. Your listing to revision is history. My podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood. This happened is about something that has never made sense to me. Maybe it's because I'm a Canadian Maybe Americans puzzle about this to talking about the bright line that divides american society, not the color line or the ideological line. I'm talking about the sad song, I dont know why people don't talk about this
because it's weird for the sake of argument. Let's use the rock magazine rolling stones list to the best songs of all time, the top fifty these are the critics choices. Hotel californy by the Eagles comes in up forty nine, which, as far as I can tell, is a song about drugs, Tutti fruity by little Richard at forty three tutti fruity. Which I remind you, has as its signature, Lyric tutti Fruity, o Rudy Tutti Fruity, o Rudy tool Rodeo Rudy Duty free Oh Rudy, Wop, Papa Lou Bob Alot Bam Boom, there's dancing in the street. I forty light. My fire, de. My baby Nirvana smells like team Spirit Dirt the dominoes Leyla, their songs about wanting to have sex songs about having sex songs about getting high. Presumably after having sex. Number one son in the list like a rolling stone by Bob Dylan? Ah, you
go into the finest schools all right, Miss lonely. But you know you only used to get Joost in it nobody's ever You had a live out on the street and now you're gonna have to get used to it. I think that's a song about someone who dropped out Harvard the number one rock song of all time is about dropping out of Harvard in all of those fifty songs, nobody dies after a long illness. No marriage disintegrates nobody's, killed on a battlefield no mother grieves for a son. The closest at any song and rolling stones list comes to being truly sad is smoky robinsons tracks of my tears, which is first of all number fifty, so they put the sad song at the bottom of the list and secondly, it's about a guy at a party in their moments of greatest travail, the protagonists of rock
roll sad songs still get too good a parties now just turn on a country music station, especially a traditional country, music station and listen. It's like a different universe, marriage is going to help people staring their shot glass in a hockey chunk. People dying young people heard John Primes unwed fathers. It's a devastating bit of songwriting about a teenage mom fleeing town. He sings it with his wife don't worry I'll be back. Ok, man it has done
the last two lines. Your daddy never meant to hurt you ever. He just don't live here, but you ve got his eyes brutal, black cement, one half of the country, the rock music part once the music to be hymns, two extra version, the other half. Once talk about real life dramas and have a good cry, I don't get it by the way you know who wrote that unwed father some with John Prime Bobby Braddock- or maybe you ve, heard this another classic recur.
By tell me why not long past golden ring, it follows a couple from first loved the break up of their marriage. By tracing the journey of their wedding ring from pawn shop to Pawn shop. It's a weeper who wrote it Bobby Braddock, and today, forty years after Heroded Braddock is still mad about a one word: change made by the songs producer, Billy Cheryl, because that may his sung one crucial degree, less sad what we had leisure. He says you want a minute about neuron ram and though it change it two says you want admitted, but I know you're leaving town National there's, not a powerful outside Europe. He says you admit it, but
no you leave and says one brings the women and girls down the river ass. She walks out contribute support should be about rule. I try to reflect that, go which brings us to maybe the greatest country some of all time. Certainly the saddest country some of our time. The song that made me get on a plane and go to Nashville. It was recorded by the great George Jones, one of the half dozen or so most iconic figures in the history of country. You just heard him singing golden Ring Jones was famously the husband attorney went out for a time a hard living, dissolute mega star once in the midst of an ethic Bender Jones family took his keys away.
We got on his writing mower and drove eight miles to the liquor store to get some whiskey This was a man who could poor his fractured hard into his music, like no one else, a half dozen times in his career. Jones, found a song truly worthy of his talents, but it never got better than he stopped loving her today. I still remember when I first heard that some and from the day I started thinking about this episode haven't been able to get it out of my head. He said, ah love you till after She told him you forget it as the years with law she's, still prayed kept her picture. Do,
to tell you who wrote that Song Bobby Braddock Bobby Braddock is the king of tears He still loved through it all bag. Oh man, one of the things that me interested in sad songs was story. My sister in law, Bev told me she might be They live in the same area. I grew up in what look county in Southern Ontario and a while ago she went to a performance by a local chamber choir thirty singers. They say I can talk called analyse by the british composer James with born a coral composition which puts the words of an francs diary to music I know this seems like a little bit of a digression from country music, but it's a really useful case daddy.
Standing why some songs make us cry the performance better. Me about- was on a Sunday afternoon, a free performance at a public library which is a very utilitarian. Very nineteen sixties. Building unclean street in downtown Kitchener, I've been to many times while the while carpet that old books, library smell, have to admit I love people other than their main reading room all the tables hundred twenty at fault. Prima standing mommy that also not singing and look. And look overran videos,
because everybody else in their parts is singing and I realize they were crying and they couldn't sing. So she cried pretty much through the entire performance. She was looking straight ahead because she didn't want people to see she was crying, but it didn't matter because everyone was crying when did before was over Bab approach, the stage to talk to the soloists, the woman, singing and frank words. I went up to her afterwards and congratulate it on the beauty of the peace and then at her singing ass it. And how did you manage to thing without crying and she said? Well, I couldn't look at mark the conductor because he was wiping tears from his eyes and I had my back to the choir so that with good- and I didn't look at anybody in the audience because they were crying cited
looked up in the middle distance, and I say it is a good thing I haven't memorize. I was at home in Canada. Wouldn't have told me that story, so I called up Mark the conductor and the soloists whose name is Natasha there. Actually husband and wife, the only live a few minutes away from my brother, so they came over marks out at the piano in the living room and Atocha stood behind him and they performed one of the pieces from analyse they did that day in the library. This is at the last moment called it's called the ants meditation. I see the world ass. The world will slowly turned turn, to a wilderness
Now I realize this is a crazy question because we're hearing a peace based on the diary than Frank, which is one of the most heartbreaking stories from one of the most horrific moments in recent history. But why was everyone crying at day at the kitchen library The obvious reason is that the music is beautiful. So is Natasha singing the performance is also authentic. There's nothing contrived about it. It wasn't a Carnegie hall. People were wearing suits and evening gowns. They were at the kitchen,
Bree and his family's getting books and kids running around in everyone's on stacking chairs, with the tables pushed off to the site, but here's the most important thing at least is specific. It's a cantata about the actual experience is of a real person in her own words. Bab says that when she cried, she started thinking about her own family Mennonites, who escaped terrible persecution in Russia. Natasha says that as she sang about twelve year old Anne Frank, she was thinking about her own daughter, who was ten and who was sitting right next to ban the audience, beauty and authenticity concrete a mood
they set the stage? But I think the thing that pushes us over the top and tears is details. We cry when melancholy collides with specificity and specificity is not something every government as well. Wild horses by the rolling stones written by Keith, Richardson, Mick Jagger. It's a song about a conversation. A man is having with silent suffering loved one. The story goes that Mick Jagger jumped up the verses while sitting at the side of his then girlfriend Marian faithful as she recovered from an overdose.
I watched you suffer a dull aching pain. Now you ve decided to show me the same. No sweeping exit or off stage lines could make me feel better or treat you unkind. Wild horses couldn't drag me away. Wild wild horses couldn't dragged me away. Wild horses is recorded first by the Legendary Grand Parsons, not long afterwards. Parsons died of an overdose and his friend in protegee, the country music. Singer. Emily Harris made a song in his memory. She wrote it with Bill Dan off. It's called from bolder to Burma. Him. He got on this just
no, here, Someone who has suffered a terrible loss has gotten on a plane. And she so numbed by grief that she could no longer see those around her. I was from boulders Birmingham and wild horses are both beautiful melancholy. Thereabouts.
Same thing, the ties, the living and a healthy have to those in pain, but which is the sad or song. I don't think, there's any question. Wild horses is generic. Listen now it starts childhood living is easy to do the things you wanted. I bought them for you, graceless lady. You know who I am you know I can't let you Slide through my hands, what's going on any idea, what is Mickey yammering on about now? Compare that to the specificity of looking down from the airplane and seeing nothing prairie, then standing on a mountain and watching a canyon burn. Why Gaza,
Tennessee see, four she references the great black spiritual rock, my soul, in the bosom of Abraham. The bosom of Abraham is whether righteous dead go while awaiting judgment Then she sings- and I would also walk all the way from bolder to Birmingham now she's. Locating her grief. I would make a pilgrimage from progressive hippie. Liberal remember. This is one thousand nine hundred and seventy three dope smoking Colorado back to the repressive heart of the old south. Just to see your face to completely different specific images, each with its own set of emotional triggers and she's piled one
top of another mark born in the music director of the choir. In my hometown, says it is a part in analyse the does the same thing, and is there in hiding already in, and she start singing in. The composer has set these words in kind of a style of an American Sousa March in such talk him of being in the bathtub and scrubbed in the bathtub, Sousa of real scrub scrub scrub ourselves in that in town jumped at tat rate very happy and optimistic music. Anne Frank in the bathtub to the tune of a Sousa March with the horrors of the Holocaust outside her door. Three, absolutely concrete images in merciless combination. It just floored me every every time
good because I was so close to you know what her own daughter is beginning to think that that she would have to create this kind of fiction in order to just get through the day. That's how you get Yours you make the story so real and the details so sharp. And you add in so many emotional triggers. The listener cannot escape, but it's a risky thing to do right. If you aren't talented composer and you dont do as sensitive rendition of those lyrics, they could fall flat could seem forced even offensive, far easier, just to fall back on the bland cliche that wild horses couldn't drag you away. Country music makes people cry Because it's not afraid to be specific, you know she came to see one last law and we all wandered,
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the most fundamentalist of fundamentalist Christians, Braddock moved to Nashville in nineteen sixty four just after getting married to seek his fortune in the music business. He rode his memoirs a few years ago it's called a life on Nashville music row. I read it before. I went to see him and the best way to describe the book is that eating lasting. I don't mean that in a bad way, because I couldn't put it down, but so much happens. You ve lived this incredibly tumultuous emotionally tumultuous light fire in the book sector. First precipitating event is the death of your son brow was touring with the country music, Legend Muddy Robins. At the time he and his wife Sue had a baby, the child with just a few months old when he died
Whenever I was in town on the road and Marty Robbins every single day, we buy fresh flowers, go put it on his grave. We were just pathetic. He and sue fight. She cheats on him. He cheats on her. They break up to get back together, they've a daughter that divorced his Ex wife mysterious eve. Mrs he drinks, alot gets into fights, owes enormous sums to the IRS. Has a major bout with depression? Smokes alot a pot lurches. One volcanic event to the next and through it all Braddock right songs, hundreds of them you kind of tolerance, fur emotional volatility seems extraordinary gas sources,
from a pretty good workforce, Braddock walks over to the keyboard. On the other side of the room, he begins to talk about an old girlfriend named Angela, who committed suicide by driving a car into the river Ashleigh dyed. Her mother took her baby to raise it and she sent me a picture, the little girl and was Joe wishes. Four or five. You look just like her mom picture. Her standing out the yard and boy did a number of me.
he wrote a song about that in twenty minutes played for me, then he played his favorite bit of a sad Randy New in town. He played me a heartbreaking song. He wrote once after getting up in the middle of the night and passing his lover in the hallway and as he played one weeper after another. I realized that thing. I'd said but Braddock tolerance for emotional volatility. Tolerance was the wrong word. That was just me. Projecting my uptake canadian self onto Braddock, but Braddock is from the musical side of the United states where emotion is not something to be endured, is something to be embraced. A one point: when cell phones was still analogue. You could buy scanner and listenin to other people's conversations, and that's what brought it does. He can help himself. A woman complaints to her husband for an hour about his lack of affection from the parking lot at the grocery store.
Then ass. Somebody once wants- and he says maybe Apple noons, and then this is my favorite part, I'm quoting from products or the conversation that truly touched me was between a man, perhaps forty, And his mother may be late sixties in which the sun opened up about sexual problems. He was having with his wife and I envied the sprinkling of proof. Additives and the mothers invitation to come go to the House son and that's open a bottle of whisky and talk about it. Wishing I had that kind of easy in open communication with my mom, then learning that the guy's mother was terminally ill with cancer. If you're keeping track that's marital difficulty, sex vanity, whisky, mom and terminal cancer in one conversation and truly touched him. Do you know a product's favorite song is Vince skills
Arrest, higher net mountain, which Gill wrote in memory both of his brother, who died young of a heart attack and fellow country, STAR Keith Whitley, who drank himself to death Oh my with their skill in reddish, gags and pay. Love wishing in harmony on that night. I go. Nuts still tell me, I know about their debts, wrote it about Keith Whitley and about his own brother injustice Should this inner song just just powerful
you, agree its heartbreaking. Listening to that song makes me wonder if some portion of what we call ideological division in America actually is an ideological at all, how big the political differences between red and blue states anyway in the grand scheme of things, not that big. Maybe what we're seeing instead is a difference of emotional opinion, because if your principle, form of cultural expression has drinking sex suicide, heart attacks, mom and terminal cancer, all on the table for public disk. Then, the other half of the country's gonna seem really chilean uncaring and if your the rock and roll half clinging semi, ironically to Tutti Fruity, o Rudy. When you
into a song written about a guy's brother who died young of a heart attack and another guy who drank himself to death. You gonna think who are these people here's another way to think about the sad song. One. Sex suicide, heart attacks, mom and terminal cancer- all on the table for public discussion, then the other half of the country's gonna seem really chilean uncaring, I'm gonna use a rolling stone magazine list Ready, Arkansas Virginia Alabama text Mississippi, Mississippi, Georgia, California, Central Valley, by the way, not LOS Angeles, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia text
Kentucky Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Texas, Kentucky Texas. I could do the top fifty or the top a hundred or the top two hundred, and you get the same pattern. Basically, you cannot be a successful country singer or songwriter if you're not from the south. It's impossible, there's one exception, which is the great somewhere Harlem Howard, who was born in Detroit, but almost immediately thereafter, his family moved to a I'm in rural Kentucky. It's like the five second role when you drop a piece of food in the floor. It is not on the ground long enough. It doesn't count as far as I can tell there are no Jews on a country list. Almost no Catholics, only two black people, its white southern Protestants, all the way down now compare.
That the rock and roll list you ve got Jews from Minnesota black people from Detroit Catholics in New Jersey, middle class, british art, school dropout, Canadians Jamaica's, rock and roll is the Rainbow coalition. That diversity is a good thing. It's why there's so much innovation in rock and roll, but you pay a price for that. It was a very clever bit of research published recently by Colin Morris in the magazine, the pudding He analyzed fifteen thousand popular songs using an algorithm that compresses digital files. So if you take out the repetitive bits in a song, how much of it is left Morris's, big finding is that rock and roll as a era is really really repetitive: Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, the Beatles. If you take out the duplicate of parts,
music shrinks by sixty percent. That's what happens when everyone is from somewhere different. Nobody speaks the same language, so you have to use cliche the same phrases over and over again, because if you go deeper or try to get more specific, you start to lose people, country, music, at a hand, is not nearly as repetitive when Morris ran the lyrics, a popular country singers through his algorithm, the only shrank by about forty percent, a third less in the rock and rollers. Nor is hip hop repetitive, which makes it
the birthplace of everyone, on rolling stones list of greatest rap songs, reads like an urban version of the country list, Queens South Central allay, broken long island, South central long, Beach, Houston, Queens, the Bronx, Englewood New Jersey, the Bronx, hip, hop and country are both tightly knit musical communities and when you speaking to people who understand your world and your culture and your language, you can tell Much more complicated stories. You can use much more precise imagery. You can lay yourself bear because your among your own in the book, he sounds like your relationship with Sparky
was the one: it seemed the most creatively fruitful. There was a woman. Sparky was a beautiful blonde from Northern Alabama, the great love of Bobby Braddock Life. Why was her at Athens because. I'm not finished, but her so strong, a sort of additional thing. I think that's why I found Bobby Braddock spoke so exhausting it's because everything is felt. Everything is a mountain peak and Sparky Sparky was Everest, high altitude infatuation ass. She could shortly make people who actually crazy
and that was the case with her this. What gets the animal instinct of people maybe who have been involved as much as they should and caused them to go out and get a gun? Wasn't my brains out some gun? Not me, I can't stand dollar some someone having sex with a person, Love Braddock Spunky were on enough lovers for years was intense, painful euphoric when it ended. Braddock was in pieces He kept her picture which have crazy now thing: that's Braddock the original demo he made of he stopped loving her today. Still through with her Well then, she come back. I so much.
Where it came from. It may have come party honestly, not now the issue and how could it not with a problem of like it probably deserves a gipsy say that for certainly MA am I felt like Braddock, shrink at that moment listening to his tangled dreams and then wanting to shake him at the end of the session it Sparky sparky. They found some letters by when you wrote a song in the middle of the great defining love affair of your life, The relationship bands and you re right, a song about the heartbreak of. But a man carries to his grave.
See the alleged. Could it be? Could it be more clear I went to see one less Bobby Braddock wrote he stopped loving today with his friend curly and nineteen. Seventy seven. They took it to this. Oh George Jones Jones was then at its lowest ebb, Erech strung out on cocaine and whisky. He just checked out of a psychiatric hospital, the great love of his life Everyone at had embodied her hit song de Ivy, o r c and left him Jones, had just newly shot and killed one of his best friends, the heart broken Bobby. Braddock has written a song about a man who cannot stop loving a woman and its by the heart broken George Jones. Who cannot stop loving woman. Some letters
Eighty nine sixty he had on under. Lined in red, every single, every single? I love you I went to see you just but I didn't see no, address them first. I've seen him smile Why did he? Finally, he's back on his great love. Why is this the first time he smiled in years, because he's dead only death could end is
and you see loving its toll, the over the top model. And sentimental kitty call it whatever you want, just don't fight it. One thing the Bobby Braddock told me in passing that I think about a lot is that he thought of the character in his song is bad role model. The man was obsessed, he couldn't let go But that's the point right. That's why we cry because the song manages to find beauty and even a little bit of grandeur in someone's frailty Now you stop lobby
the wild horses please good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome to the grand Olaf Bree Harsh to celebration of Life of George Glenn Jones were the most important people ever Of all time, and at any time in the history of cut for Music Judge Jones died in twenty thirteen everyone who was Anyone in country music came to his memorial service. You should watch it if you get the chance. It's on Youtube, or hours and forty one minutes of it, because it's everything I've been talking about Vince Gill stands up with Patty Loveless and sings go rest high and that mountain and breaks down half way through What
try tread, remembers a conversation he once have with Chris Christophersen about how they expected George Jones to have died years. Before I looked at Chris and made the comment in our all the years of hard live in Georgia, who would have everything? did. He would outlay of Tammy and Chris Looked at me and said Harry not been for Nancy. He would not here Nancy Jones, George Joneses, fourth and final wife. The real love of his life, his soul, mate and companion. Travis tread holds out his hand towards Nancy
whose sitting right in the front row George said many times. She's, my angel. Saved my life. And so we owe you a debt of gratitude, then The crowning moment of the day. The final performance, Alan Jackson, strides out onto the stage a big rangy guy craggy features cowboy boots genes long coat, whites That's him. He looked squarely at Nancy Jones and without introduction launches into he stopped loving her. There He said I love you too, she did. As you, and you realize, as he sings the Braddock Song,
gotten even more specific. It's no anger about a long ago, love affair. It's about right now. This is the day job. Joan, stopped, loving Nancy Jones. Alan Jackson takes off his hat and places it over his heart, he stopped loving today and if you are crying
and help you we love you George or the great tonight, I'm, ladies and gentlemen, at all time, ice. Alan Jackson, thank you. So much county revisionist history is produced by meal about and Jacob Psmith with Camille Baptistin Stephanie.
Daniel and see Amara Martinez. Why are editor is Julia. Barton. Flown Williams is our engineer original music by Luis Kara, special thanks to Anti Bowers and Jacob Weisberger. Patently I'm out on July. Tens Twenty fifteen, a young woman named Sandra Bland, was stopped by a police officer on a highway and rural Texas. Then everything went wrong. I've written a book called talking to strangers. It starts with that encounter, but I didn't just right. For the page, I recorded an audio book as Well
New kind of audio book that allows you to hear the voices of the people I talk to and come with me to the places I go because You shouldn't just listen to an audio book. You should experience it talking to strangers the audio experience available now, where ever audio books or sold.
Transcript generated on 2020-01-12.