My song today is ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’. This song was recorded by American country music singer-songwriter, Hank Williams in 1949. The song has been covered by a wide range of musicians. During his ‘Aloha from Hawaii’ TV-special, Elvis Presley introduced it by saying, "I'd like to sing a song that's... probably the saddest song I've ever heard."
‘I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry’ has become closely identified with Williams's musical legacy and has been widely praised. In the 2003 documentary ‘The Road to Nashville’, singer K.D,Lang stated, "I think 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' is one of the most classic American songs ever written, truly. Beautiful song." In his autobiography, Bob Dylan recalled, "Even at a young age, I identified with him. I didn't have to experience anything that Hank did to know what he was singing about. I'd never heard a robin weep but could imagine it and it made me sad." In its online biography of Williams, Rolling Stone notes, "In tracks like 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry',
Williams expressed intense, personal emotions with country's traditional plainspoken directness, a then-revolutionary approach that has come to define the genre through the works of subsequent artists from George Jones and Willie Nelson to Gram Parsons and Dwight Yoakham " Rolling Stone ranked it Number 111 on their list of the ‘500 Greatest Hits of All Time’, the oldest song on the list, and Number 3 on its ‘100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time’.
Music journalist Chet Flippo and Kentucky historian W. Lynn Nickell have each claimed how 19-year-old Kentuckian Paul Gilley wrote the lyrics, then sold the song to Williams along with the rights, allowing Williams to take credit for it. They stated that Gilley also wrote the lyrics to ‘Cold, Cold, Heart’ and other songs before drowning at the age of 27. However, Williams said he wrote the song originally intending that the words be spoken, rather than sung, as he had done on several of his ‘Luke the Drifter’ recordings.
As we head into the 2020s, one of society's greatest problems as society advances in medicine and longevity of life is ironically one of ‘Loneliness’. Once upon a time, the traditional life span of a working man was threescore years and ten. One usually had only five years to collect their pension before ‘kicking the bucket’.
A young couple getting married when I was a boy could be reasonably assured (barring any industrial accident or serious illness), that they would usually die within a few years of each other. No sooner than one of the married couples had died and the grass had grown above their joint grave plot, the remaining married partner would be lowered into the after-life to join them.
The past fifty years have witnessed a vast improvement in our expected life spans. If one married partner is unfortunate to die in their early sixties today, the bereaved partner can often live for twenty years and longer before they also die.
Depending on a number of circumstances such as variety and number of interests one has, how many social contacts and friends, amount of money to live on, outlook on life in general, and of course one’s overall health will all matter in how lonely one is likely to be
Despite the significant regional discrepancies between the wealthy southern and the poorer northern communities within Scotland, England, and Wales, today, men and women can expect to live longer lives than ever before. The Office for National Statistics puts UK life expectancy at 79.2 years for men and 82.9 years for women. This gives me another two years before I hit the ‘winning tape’. This doesn't necessarily mean that all of us can expect to reach those ages or not pass them since the estimates are based on the age a baby would reach if they were born today.
More and more today, as people live longer, many an older spouse lives in a Care Home with conditions like dementia; not being able to remember the wife or husband they married fifty and sixty years earlier or the children they parented in their married life. In some respects, it is perhaps a blessing that patients of Care Homes with advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s probably don’t ever realise the precise state of their condition. It is their loyal spouses and family members who are made to carry the constant pain of their isolation.
Ester Ranzen (the founder of the children’s charity ‘Childline’ in 1996) today puts all her energy into her latest project that counters the loneliness of the old. Her charity ‘The Silver Line’ is literally a lifeline of many senior citizens. The charity was founded by Dame Esther Rantzen in 2013 to bring companionship to the 1.2 million older people in Britain believed to be struggling with severe loneliness and chronic -isolation. ‘Silver Line’ puts the lonely in touch with one another, giving each a sense that they are never alone.
Even before the world started to experience this dreadful pandemic virus that has struck every country on the face of the earth (Coronavirus) and which will most certainly lead to the decimation of the world’s overall population, ‘loneliness’ experienced by the divorced, the aged, the unwell and many people living alone was fast becoming a scourge on their happy states and a constant blight on the lives of older people who’d lost their spouse many years earlier.
Since the pandemic has worsened and every country is reaching a ‘lock-down’ stage in order to contain this invisible killer enough to make it medically manageable and reduce the death toll, every citizen in the country has been asked and is expected to change their lifestyle. All older people like myself (who are medically vulnerable with a pre-existent condition) have to self-isolate for three months and have no physical contact with others, including family members who do not live with us. Streets have become desolate over the past few weeks and ‘a run’ has been made on the supermarket shelves by greedy, selfish, frightened people panic buying extra food and household stock.
This selfish behaviour is counterproductive to the nation’s wellbeing and the saving of as many lives as possible. Along with all those people who refuse to ‘socially isolate’ from others and cram cheek to jowl in supermarkets and on buses and the tube; such people are no better than the gun-crazed maniac one often hears of in America, who shoots dead dozens of innocent people as they go about their daily lives. Open your eyes and see the harm you do, the selfish people among you who care less about others as you look after number one!
Fortunately, when God created the universe and made man and woman, I’d like to believe that only those apples that Adam and Eve picked and ate from the forbidden tree were ‘bad apples. I believe that all the other apples untouched by sinful hands were perfectly good apples, remaining ‘socially isolated’ in the place that they were expected to stay. Consequently, (and it may be because of my 77 years of age) I believe that for every ‘bad apple’ in society today there are one thousand ‘good apples’. Let us hope that through our example of how strong a nation Great Britain is in the face of adversity, that goodness, wholesomeness, compassion, selflessness and the willingness to share will prevail over all that is evil and impure, cruel, selfish and is governed by greed.
Let us also pray for and give thanks to the selfless behaviour of our NHS staff, whose vocations to help others matter more than their own lives. Let us give thanks to every citizen, who through their work or their natural inclination to look after and safeguard all those who are less fortunate than themselves. Let us thank our good neighbours, and above all let us thank God for keeping us around to carry on the good fight. God bless the good of humanity.
Despite being confined to our homes, we should never allow our voices to be confined to silence. It is time to shout out our values loud and clear instead of being confined to silence. Just as a decent person would intervene with another person who was being physically or racially abusive to another person (by telling them loud and clear to ‘stop it!’), so it should be when we see any greedy person stockpile large amounts of food from rapidly emptying supermarket shelves into their trolley. Tell them, “That is wrong! Stop being selfish! Stop it!” Likewise, if we see groups of people contravening clear government advice and mingling closely in crowded formation, we should tell them to “Stop risking all our lives and to keep their distance!”
On the other side of the coin, I am heartened by the selfless action of so many good people who look out for their vulnerable neighbours, even at an increased risk to their own health and life. All these caring and loving people in 2020 are illustrating that British war-time community spirit that helped us win through between those hard years of 1914-18 and 1939-45. Just like the two previous world wars, we have to pull together if we are to pull through at all! We are all in this battle together and however young, old, healthy or frail we may be, we can do it by being the good people that our Creator intended us to be.
So, please identify one vulnerable person who you can currently telephone, talk to, shop for or help; and do so! All that it takes for Great Britain to win through is for each one of us to help just one more person outside our own family.
Love and peace Bill xxx