When John Madden was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he wondered aloud what the bronze busts of the game's greats talk about after the Hall of Fame museum closes at night. This was just one more example of Madden's childlike enthusiasm for the game he loves and the places it took him in life. I love thinking of songs having a conversation with each other. Two songs that talk to each other in my mind are Shelby Lynne's “Why Can't You Be?” and Stevie Ray Vaughan's “Wall of Denial.”
Vaughan's “Wall of Denial” takes some principles of the 12-Step Program that was part of his recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. In the song, he describes living with demons that haunt us, hurt us, and try to destroy us from within. “We've all had our demons,” he tells us, and they lie to us, convincing us we can't live without them. We “go as far as to love them, to keep from letting them go.”
In Lynne's “Why Can't You Be?,” she asks “What the hell's wrong with living without the blues?” I guess we can bring a third song into our conversation, that being Garbage's “I'm Only Happy When it Rains.” Kurt Cobain sang, “I miss the comfort in being sad.” It's so easy to get sucked into believing life has nothing to offer but hurt or pain. It becomes normal to us. We can become dependent on feeling bad because we don't know how to live any other way, free from those demons.
There is so much power and so many layers to Lynne's question, and her delivery of the line lets us in to many of them. It seems such a simple, simplistic question and yet it's so much bigger than that. There's an innocence in the delivery. What the hell is so wrong with not feeling overcome by the blues? Why in the world would we miss sadness? Why not live a life that's more than that?
It's also a moment of clarity. Lynne is observing someone else, seeing what they can't see for themselves, trying to help them kick the blues in the ass:
devil's got your shirt tail clutched in the palm of his hand
double vodka on the rocks on a plastic tray
never fails you but it won't
take the hours away
“What the hell's wrong with living without the blues?” Nothing. It seems so simple, but as Mark Lanegan sings in “Stay,” “living's not hard, it's just not easy.” This is why I keep buying CDs. I would hate for my songs to be lonely. Each of these songs – “Wall of Denial,” “Why Can't You Be?,” “I'm Only Happy When it Rains,” “Dumb,” and “Stay” – works just fine on their own, but magic happens when they talk to each other.
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