My father-in-law died after a short battle with cancer last month. Not only was he a great dad to my wife and her siblings, he was a great father-in-law and a great grandfather. He was truly a good man, even a great husband, four different times! He was a reader, appreciated a good book, and was a great storyteller. Things he did or said appear in both my books and I think he enjoyed the attention. Nonetheless, our own lives are now a bit more lonely, and naturally, I've become overly analytical about my own life and direction now. I find solace in music and I always have. Maybe it's because my mother loved records and played them when we were children---great music like Joe South, The Supremes, Kris Kristofferson, Tom. T. Hall, you name it. I learned to dance as a child in the 1960's, to do the twist, listening to 45's of Chubby Checker and Larry Williams' Short Fat Fannie and Boney Maronie. Maybe I love music because I learned to play the piano and memorized many hymns in the Baptist Hymnal---Love Lifted Me, I'll Fly Away, Life's Railway to Heaven, Farther Along, When We All Get to Heaven, I Am Resolved, and so on. Maybe it's because I feel the poetry in lyrics and can relate to them, and it may be because I love to hear beautiful voices sing---Dolly Parton, Stevie Wonder, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Pink Floyd, CCR, The Indigo Girls, Joan Baez, The Beatles, Emmylou Harris, The Bee Gees, and who could forget Judy Collins and her Amazing Grace. My list of those singers I love could go on some time, longer than anyone would want to read. And what an honor to me when a singer gets one of my books---Tom T. Hall, Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton---and sends back compliments. It's like eating the best piece of cake you've ever had. For me, by the way, that would be Debbie Zimmerman's pound cake, a wonderful lady in Winchester, Tennessee, and she is a great singer, too.
Now, though, I think I love music and include it in writing because I really wanted to be a singer. I'm not too bad, either. I can harmonize well with Simon and Garfunkel and others in the car. I like to practice in church every once in a while and wonder what the people think when I belt it out. Of course, they shouldn't turn around and shhh me, since that wouldn't be good Christian behavior or Southern etiquette. I want to be able to sing like those I admire, like my late father-in-law who had a beautiful voice and would on occasion spontaneously break into a hymn or a Hank Williams song. Recently, I had a story accepted titled "Drifting too Far from the Shore." It will appear in the Deep South Magazine in Louisiana soon, and the title came from a song written by the Georgia Yellow Hammers early in the 20th century. It was an old gospel song that Hank Williams recorded and was later sung by Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. I find inspiration in music and want to honor it and the people who sing it in my own writing. I encourage others to listen more closely to the songs---quit singing the wrong lyrics to the radio in the car and in the shower, look up the real lyrics, the stories behind them. For me, music gets me through life, gives me comfort, and gets me through long and sad days. We all have a song and we need to sing it while we can. It's life. My father-in-law taught me that, that sweet music man.