Top 5 times when its acceptible for a guy to cry: songs
Johnny Cash – Hurt
From the album American IV: The Man Comes Around – from which the majority of the songs were cover versions – comes this masterpiece. A cover of a Nine Inch Nails song, Cash somehow managed to change the meaning of the song without changing the lyrics. A song written about the depths of pain felt during drug abuse was changed into a song about aging, time and regret. While Trent Reznor’s original was sparse and bitter, Cash’s version is more exposing and heartfelt and the video exposes parts of life we aren’t used to seeing. Broken down with illness and age, Cash uses his frailty to increase the emotional impact of the video and the very real expression of concern on his wife’s face gives the video poignancy, but is so earnest that its almost difficult to watch. As we flick through channel after channel of glossy, over produced videos full of shiny, beautiful people, it’s shocking to see a 71 year old man at the end of his life in a state of health we rarely see outside of a nursing home. That it’s the great Man In Black that’s so old and frail makes it all the more heartbreaking. Both Johnny and June Cash were dead less than 6 months after shooting this video. The song was the perfect epitaph for his career. Reznor himself had this to say of Cash’s version:
“I pop the video in, and wow… Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps… Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore… It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure.”
Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven
A song that Eric Clapton won’t even play anymore, it’s remarkable that a mainstream artists could perform music about such a sensitive subject. The song is about the loss of his four year old son, Conor, who fell from an open window to his death. Clapton wrote the song with the help of song writer Will Jenning’s. Jenning’s was surprised and somewhat reluctant when Clapton told him “I want to write a song about my boy”. He soon found out that Clapton had already written most of the song and just needed some help with the lyrics of the later verses. For all that Clapton has contributed to modern rock music he’s been a controversial figure. Openly bigoted, he has been responsible for racist tirades in the past that would put Mel Gibson to shame. Despite that, you can’t deny the quality of his blues (and therefore black) inspired music, and in this one song he created a memorably sad and earnest commemoration of his sons tragically short life.
Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
A deeply intense and personal song by Leonard Cohen was given appropriate gravitas by Buckley’s heartfelt, reverential cover version. While Buckley is somewhat overrated and elevated to Cobain status because of his tragically short life, this is the definitive version of the song. Avoid at all costs the atrociously bad X Factor version(s) of this song which completely missed the point by taking a low key, beautifully quiet song and turning the orchestra up to eleven while crooning warblers overwrought every note with their soulless vocal gymnastics.
Daniel Johnston – Some Things Last a Long Time
Its getting really hard for me to write a list without including Daniel Johnston on it recently. This particular song was used at the end of the documentary, “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” and was one of his more polished, mainstream efforts. Johnston was the songwriter’s songwriter; so much of his material was clumsy, amateurish or just plain bad. Despite this, his extreme vulnerability and openness about his feelings and his fears makes his music honest as well as original. While many people with mental illness have a metaphorical battle with their demons, Johnston felt his battle was much more literal and his experiences with demons and Satan endangered his own life as well as his friends on more than one occasion. Despite frequently being overcome with extreme depression, Johnston would nonetheless write song after song about true love. Songs about unrequited love are something we can almost all understand, but its Johnston’s overwhelming optimism that in the end he will find (or regain) his true love that makes his music all the more affecting. In this song, he holds on to a picture in the same way that he holds on to his love for someone who has most probably long since forgotten him. But Daniel still hopes, some things last a long time.
Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer – Redemption Song
The death of Johnny Cash was a big loss for the music world, but perhaps even worse was the death of Joe Strummer. Passing away tragically young, Strummer had a huge impact on punk music. With The Clash, he swept away the indulgencies and complacency of the music industry up to that point. After punk, nothing was the same, but while the Sex Pistols or the Buzzcocks music was reductionist, The Clash experimented and brought in elements of Reggae and other musical genres to their thrashing punk guitars. Although Strummer was named after his basic guitar abilities (“with me, you get all six strings or none”), his musical taste was diverse and his late night radio show showcased music from every corner of the world. Like his contemporary Johnny Rotten, Strummer loved Reggae and Bob Marley so this cover version of one of his hero’s most famous songs was a fitting tribute. That he was accompanied with another of his heroes in this version of the song makes this the perfect tribute to Marley’s greatest song. Three great artists no longer with us, one great song, a great many tears.