My song today is ‘She is Gone’. This song is one of the singles in the forty-fourth studio album ‘Spirit’ by country music singer Willie Nelson. The album differs from Nelson's other albums because of the use of fewer instruments (two guitars, piano, fiddle) and has a more classical/Spanish influence than others. Nelson's sister Bobbie plays piano.
I recently came across this song and was amazed to discover that initially, the music critics disapproved of it because of its scarcity of wordage and content. It is one of the most beautiful tuneful songs I have heard from Willie and I’m so glad I found it in early 2020.
Willie Hugh Nelson (born April 29, 1933) is an American musician, actor, and activist. The critical success of the album ‘ Shotgun Willie’ (1973) combined with the critical and commercial success of ‘Red Headed Stranger’ (1975) and ‘Stardust’ (1978), made Nelson one of the most recognized artists in country music. He was one of the main figures of ‘outlaw county’, a subgenre of country music that developed in the late 1960s as a reaction to the conservative restrictions of the Nashville sound. Willie Nelson has acted in over 30 films, co-authored several books, and has been involved in activism for the use of biofuels and the legalisation of marijuana.
Born during the ‘Great Depression’ and raised by his grandparents, Nelson wrote his first song at age seven and joined his first band when he was ten years old. During high school, he toured locally with the Bohemian Polka as their lead singer and guitar player. After graduating from high school in 1950, he joined the ‘U.S. Air Force’ but was later discharged due to back problems. After his return, Nelson attended ‘Baylor University’ for two years but dropped out because he was succeeding in music. During this time, he worked as a disc jockey in Texas radio stations and a singer in honky-tonks. After Willie Nelson moved to Vancouver in Washington, his writing and singing career started to take off more successfully. Due to this success, Nelson signed in 1964 with ‘RCA Victor’ record label and the following year he joined the Grand Ole Opry. After mid-chart hits in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, Nelson retired in 1972 and moved to Austin, Texas. The ongoing music scene of Austin motivated Nelson to return from retirement, performing frequently at the ‘Armadillo World Headquarters’.
In 1973, after signing with ‘Atlantic Records’, Willie Nelson turned to outlaw country music and in 1975, he switched to ‘Columbia Records’, where he recorded the critically acclaimed album ‘Red Headed Stranger’. After other recordings, Willie joined forces ‘on the road’ with many famous singers like Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson.
In 1990, Nelson's assets were seized by the ‘Internal Revenue Service’, which claimed that he owed $32 million. The difficulty of paying his outstanding debt was aggravated by weak investments he had made during the 1980s. In 1992, Nelson released ‘The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories’. The profits of the double album—destined to the IRS—and the auction of Nelson's assets, cleared his debt. During the 1990s and 2000s, Nelson continued touring extensively and released albums every year. Reviews ranged from positive to mixed.
He explored genres such as reggae, blues, jazz, and folk.
Willie Nelson is a man who has had a rich and full life. He is a great country and western singers; one of my favourite country singers. He is currently 86 years old and is still singing! Good on you, Willie!
I have known of so many people who didn’t want to go on with their lives after the death of their lifelong partner and soulmate. It was as though they had decided the moment that the coffin had been lowered into the ground that they too would drop out of life and allow themselves to be buried in grief for the remainder of it.
They essentially saw no point in continuing the pretence that they could ever again feel happy when they got up on a morning, only to have it dawn on them as soon as they opened their eyes that they would face the day alone and that their partner was gone and wasn’t coming back. Even if by some miracle they believed they might love another man/woman again when their raw emotions had settled, they didn’t want another man/woman. They knew in their heart of hearts that nobody; simply nobody, could ever match up to the one that preceded them.
I once was the Probation Officer who supervised the teenage son of a collier’s widow. The boy and his widowed mother lived in Emley Moor, Huddersfield during the 1980s. After the death of her husband of thirty years, she never stops crying; she never stops grieving the loss of her husband and children’s father. I was introduced to the mining widow when her 14-year-old son, who had always been a good lad until his thirteenth year of life, seemed to go off the rails. In the short space of twelve months, he had appeared before the Magistrates Court on three occasions for separate offences of a minor nature; petty theft, fighting in public and drinking underage.
He had one older married sister, and it soon became apparent prior to making him the subject of a two-year Supervision Order to the Probation Service, that his disturbing behaviour commenced after the sudden and unexpected death of his father a year earlier. His father had experienced the miner’s cough (known in Huddersfield mining communities as ‘The Black Death’) after working at the pit face for over twenty-six years.
Following his father’s death, his sister (who had moved to live down south upon her marriage) stopped visiting her bereaved mother after the funeral.
The boy told me that his mother used to be a happy woman when his father was around, but added since his father had died, ‘the life seemed to go out of her’. Both boy and mother needed someone with whom they could talk to, but as so often happens, neither seemed able to talk to each other and give each other the support each needed.
During one of our weekly sessions (I would see the young man at the Probation Office and at home when I could), he told me that his mother still pretends his father was still alive. When I asked him to elaborate, he indicated that although his father had been dead and buried over one year, she would still polish his mining boots on a night time and she would still get up at 5:30 am in the morning and warm the boots at the fireside. It would seem that 5:30 am was the time she had risen since her first week of marriage. She’d always insisted on getting her husband off to work and having a hot mug of tea for him as soon as he came downstairs on a morning. The young man (I cannot recall his name) also indicated that nobody was allowed to sit in ‘Dad’s fireside chair’.
I recalled upon hearing this story, how much it reminded me of the 1963 British drama film ‘This Sporting Life’ that recounted the story of a rugby league footballer, Frank Machin. The film was set in the mining area of Wakefield, West Yorkshire and Richard Harris (who won the Best Actor’s Award) and Rachel Roberts played the lead parts (the rugby player on the up and the miner’s widow) with whom he wants a relationship, but she won’t allow anyone to get emotionally close to her again.
The film contains an almost identical scene as the young probationer described to me about the miner’s widow still warming her dead husband’s boots in front of the fire during each early morning and preparing him a hot mug of tea on the breakfast table.
During later years, I heard from other Probation Officers who had experienced similar accounts in the houses of deceased miners by bereaved spouses. It seems that the novel of the same name by David Storey, upon which the film was based, used real experiences from the homes of mining widows when researching his background for the book. Still, when I think about it today, both film and my own experience were taken from the same area of the country; the mining area of Wakefield in West Yorkshire. It has often been said that art is the best imitation of life.
Love and peace Bill xxx