Country music has been described with a number of stereotypes over the years, some good, some not so good, some clever, and some not. No doubt you’ve probably heard someone mockingly describe country tunes with a variation on this idea: “My dog left me, my woman got stolen, and my truck left me for another man” (something like that). There’s also the famous description (I think it was Hank Williams but I may be wrong) of country music as “3 chords and the truth” which I think is just about right.
But, in spite of the seemingly shallow “good love gone bad” metaphorical aspect, there have been a number of country song titles which are not only clever, but even profound. Perhaps just because of the way the song titles highlight something obvious that hadn’t been described in a certain way. It was some tough doin’, what with corn shuckin, tobacco chewin, and hay pilin’ all keepin me busy, but I managed to whittle my list of the cleverest country song titles down to 5:
1. She Thinks I Still Care – George Jones
This Jones classic song of heartbreak is really a great song, clever title or otherwise. This song heralded George Jones’s discovery of his own unique style and was a #1 hit. But the wonderful irony, so thinly and sarcastically veiled in the title, is what really makes the song work. When George sings: “just because I saw her then fell all to pieces/ she thinks I still care” we feel that feeling because we’ve all felt it before.
2. I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know About Her – Various Artists
Everybody and their sister in the music world has covered this one. Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn…the list goes on. It’s another absolute standard in the country music canon; and there’s a reason for that. Another heartbreak song, we see in the title the voice of a spiteful scorned lover, having difficulty with the loss of his beloved. The title is almost a reassuring mantra, cutting down the new lover and consoling the speaker. “You think you know the smile on her lips/ the thrill of the touch of her fingertips/ but I forgot more than you’ll ever know about her”. Well said.
3. Who Walks In When I Walk Out – Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
This is kind of an obscure number…which is too bad because it’s really a terrific piece of music. It almost sounds like a New Orleans funeral march, and the Bob Wills recording is filled with all sorts of whoops and wails. Here we see the suspicious husband (or wife) wondering what’s happening when he’s away. It’s a haunting melody, albeit an upbeat one, but the jealousy comes through in the title. It’s clever, no?
4. Married By The Bible, Divorced By The Law – Hank Snow
“Divorces by the thousands/ is this human race insane?/ I always thought that marriage should be a sacred thing.” Obviously this is a bit of an old song, because I don’t think anyone follows the old ideas of marriage anymore. The separation of church and state carries through in the title of this song. It’s a nice idea. Old Hank would be spinning in his grave if he saw the divorce rates today…I think it’s now possible to get divorced before you’re even married. But I need to be careful…I think I’ve just discovered another clever title.
5. The Man That Wrote Home Sweet Home Never Was A Married Man – Charlie Poole
“She’ll meet you at the door when you want to come in/ She’ll knock you down with a rolling pin”. This is a truly magnificent song (and recording if you can find it). Hilarious. Probably misogynist as well, but these are just a couple old drunks from North Carolina singing and pickin’ the banjo. This song has no bearing in real life. None at all.