Maybe you don’t like Country music? Yeah, me neither. White redneck nonsense. So why is it that this quintessentially country song beguiles me so?
Maybe it’s a fine song, despite its supposedly disreputable genre?
My Dad was a stalwart proponent of classical music, a devoted follower of Ludwig van, and when it came to popular music he advocated strenuously for the songs he grew up with, the Swing Era hits that in retrospect really were great, but one thing he taught me was that good music can come from anywhere, from quite unexpected places, and there’s no accounting for it, or predicting of it. You had to keep your mind open and your ears receptive. Excellence – even genius – could show up in the damndest places. When I was a kid in the late sixties and early seventies Dad expressed great affection for many acts that were supposed to be on the opposite side of the generation gap, CCR, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkle, listen, music was music. Now, if there’s any such thing as a “generation gap” any more, those are acts are on my side of the divide, and I try to discipline myself against musical bigotry, whether it comes to era, or genre. I don’t like Country. But I like lots of Country songs. Hell, even the Beatles did Country – look up the tracks on Beatles for Sale.
Beats the Hell Out of Me was one of those songs for which Dad, later in life, developed what might have seemed an unexpected affection, if you weren’t up to speed on the governing principles. Surely after one listen you can see why. It combines so many classic elements, and makes so many deft moves. Plus, it’s one of those hurtin’ songs that makes sense, that isn’t about rage and righteous resentment, or even sorrowful betrayal, but contemplates why the protagonist sticks with this relationship that isn’t working, and wonders about where the finger of blame should properly point. Who’s abusing who here? Who’s he most disappointed with – himself maybe?
Besides, the conclusion is sublime. That, folks, is how you end a song.