sing a sad song

This morning, while I was waiting for a friend to stitch our car together one more time, I had an opportunity to sift through a local paper. Indeed, I gave three days’ worth of said paper a thorough going-over as I waited. And let me tell you, it was 10 minutes well spent.

For one thing, I learned that musicians are not getting rich via streaming. I had no idea. Steven Page noted that the regular income generated by his Barenaked Ladies recordings is today “much smaller than it once was” a few years ago.

In a related story, Lou Bega reports that sales of Mambo No. 5 appear to have plateaued.

Yet, as of late the music world’s greatest losses have been off the record.

Frank Sinatra, Jr., faced the final curtain. Phife Dawg kicked it, dammit. And if we make it through April, we will have to do so without Merle Haggard. And there is something about losing Hag days after something like 40 million people went to see Garth Brooks at the Palladium that, well, uh, good for Garth Brooks. But still…

In the long and often bumpy history of hillbilly/country/western music, few if any artists walked it like they talk it better than Hag. Here was a man who sang of turning 21 in prison — not uncommon in the world of country music.

Yet, Merle Haggard turned 21 in prison.

Okay, so he was not “doing life without parole.” But here was a man who sang of a prisoner’s last wish — to be sung back home. Not hard to picture our git-tar playing friend Hag having done just that for a fellow inmate.

I regret that I did not catch his 2004 performance at the Civic Centre. (You older readers will remember the Civic Centre.) It’s not that I did not try to find a way to attend the May 29 concert. It’s just that, well, my wedding and reception were taking place in Wakefield and I just couldn’t figure a way to slip out unnoticed.

I do recall stragglers making their way out to the hall after the show. The show, they were quick to note, was amazing.

Well, the wedding was amazing too. It’s just a shame that my efforts to convince Hag’s people to head out to the Black Sheep after the show were unsuccessful. That would have been a nice bonus.

I have been waiting ever since that night for the man to return to our town. Alas, he never will.

Thank you for singing, Hag. You are home now. And we are the poorer for it.

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