Thursday, March 17, 2016

That's All I Can Remember

GOD! It took me a long time to find this. It's a song I remember from childhood, when we owned every album Burl Ives ever made. I kind of underestimated him, I think - I thought he was just this bulky, dorky folk singer who sang kiddie songs and once in a while showed up in a movie. But this song, which I hadn't heard in - God! I hate to say, perhaps 50 years - stuck in my head. It was about a man who had been executed for a double murder and thus was singing to us, not from Heaven Above, but that other place.

YouTube just burgeons constantly, a never-ending joy and source of fascination for me, but I sure had to wait a long time for this. Ives was a unique singer with an extremely subtle and expressive tenor voice. He "undersang" rather than belted, didn't even project very much at all because he had a sort of silvery quality, like moonlight.  Even though we get to experience the horror of the electric chair directly ("they turned on the juice. . . "), he sings almost tenderly, and without a trace of anger or self-pity.

It's a damn good arrangement, and I love the smokily subtle chorus, though there are other versions such as this one (which I posted a couple of years ago) that take a slightly different approach. I don't know who Cowboy Copas is, or was, because I loathe country music more than anything. But some artists transcend genre, and this version is compelling in its own way.

Or is it the fact that I'm just bloody morbid? I've always had a fascination with death and the macabre. Death-in-life. I have seen friends of mine drop off the planet one by one, and I wonder where they go. People younger than me, I mean, and some of them even healthy, seemingly destined to live another 30 years. And then -

For many years, I was adamantly against the death penalty. We don't have it in Canada, and I am just as glad, but there are cases, particularly child murder - let's just say my views have changed, at least under particularly horrendous circumstances. People are more likely to murder their families, the people they "love" the most, than anyone else. It stretches our capacity to believe that human nature can really be that dark.

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