Goodbye Possum

Posted on April 26, 2013

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In the last three weeks I’ve buried an uncle and a grandmother and then today George Jones died. Damn.

I’m from the deep south and raised by ‘Greatest Generation’ maternal grandparents, I know country music.

And with respect, I don’t mean what passes for country music today. I’m sure some of what you’ll find on country radio today is mighty fine – but it hasn’t been my cup of tea in a quite a few years. Sounds too much like syrupy, repackaged pop music for my tastes, but to each their own.

Riding in the car with Buddy & Kathleen Sliger, or listening to our big old cabinet stereo at home, the sounds of Johnny Horton, Tammy Wynette, Loretta & Conway and of course, the Possum himself, George Jones could always be heard.

But as I grew older I learned to love George Jones and not just for his music, it was because George and I were kindred spirits. We each battled our personal demons, some days we won, some days George and I lost.

When I was 10 years old, in 1980, George led police on a televised chase through the heart of Music City. Nineteen years later he crashed his car into a Nashville bridge and nearly died.

“Through it all I kept reading articles that said I was the greatest country singer alive. And singers I respect were constantly saying that too. I was always appreciative, but I never understood how such a supposedly good singer could be such a troubled person. My talent, though it brought me fame and fortune, never brought me peace of mind.” – George Jones’ autobiography, I Lived To Tell It All.

George had a voice like no one else, one note, just one little word, is enough to put a phantom taste of whiskey in the back of my throat. It’s so raw, when the Possum sings I swear I can actually picture the notes of the song, they’re bright red and glistening, raw and open like a broken heart. Achingly beautiful.

As I sat here writing, trying to connect the dots between me and George, listening to a You Tube mix of his greatest hits, I realized I didn’t need to, the Possum had done it for me, when he sang a wonderful ode to loveable losers, ‘Wrongs What I Do Best’.

I don’t know if the writing trio of Campbell, Lee & Weller were writing about George when the penned this tune, I know for certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they could have been writing about me:

‘Wrongs What I Do Best’

Some men look for diamonds
Some men look for gold
I’m just trying to find myself
Before I get too old
Different people have their ways
Of measuring success
Maybe it’s not the right way
But wrong’s what I do best

Well I walk the straight and narrow
Straight to where I don’t belong
One time I even tried to love one woman
But that didn’t last too long
If my ship is docking in the east
You can bet I’d be heading west
Riding the wrong direction
‘Cause wrong’s what I do best

When I’m down and out
And can’t get up [ rest of line ?]
I feel right at home
When I got the blues
And it’s all bad news
That’s when I’m in my comfort zone

If they held a loser’s playoff
There’d be no contest
‘Cause I’ve had lots of practice
And wrong’s what I do best

If my ship is docking in the east
You can bet I’d be heading west
I’m riding the wrong direction
‘Cause wrong’s what I do best

Riding the wrong direction
‘Cause wrong’s what I do best

“If we all could sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones.”- Waylon Jennings 

September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013

September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013

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