Day 04: A Song that Makes You Sad
Another hard one at first, until I thought about it. There are plenty songs which make me feel nostalgic or wistful. I tried to look for one that reflected something in my own life but I couldn’t really find one. In the end I went with a strong one though, which harks back to something I wrote about at the time.
Vic Chesnutt was a wheelchair-bound singer/songwriter from Athens, Georgia. Having attempted suicide on a number of previous occasions as this song painfully details, he finally took his leave of this world on Christmas Day 2009. As with much of Chesnutt’s work, Flirted With You All My Life is a heartbreakingly honest reflection of a difficult life lived earnestly and without bitterness. There’s not a lot in it to be happy about, not a lot of hope, and in the end I guess he felt he was ready.
A great deal of the blame lies in America’s entrenched laissez-faire health insurance industry, but that’s a rant for another time and place.
The song itself has an odd lilt to it, a vaguely Caribbean feel with vibrato organs and reverse guitar. However, as it progresses, the juxtaposition of these elements slowly builds an astonishing pathos. A lot of songs from Chesnutt’s two sublime Constellation releases have this quality to some degree, but it’s almost always leavened by a dry humour, a kindly sentiment or observation. This song is not. It’s haunting — it was before his death, but now doubly so.
Here’s the album on Constellation records.