DOLLY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (8)
January 24, 2023
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of favorite Country singles from the Sixties (1964–1973). Series edited by Josh Glenn. BONUS: Check out the DOLLY YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist on Spotify.
SKEETER DAVIS | “I DIDN’T CRY TODAY” | 1969
The poets say the darkest hour is right before the dawn, and that’s total bullshit. The darkest hour is the black peak of night, so many slow crawling minutes before a first spark even feels feasible. The dawn is ten million tiny miracles of light painstakingly accruing — a Sisyphean struggle, a cosmic fifteen-round fistfight with no rules and six-pound gloves. The dawn prevails but barely. And the darkness always returns.
Skeeter Davis’s inimitable 1969 lament “I Didn’t Cry Today” is an exuberant two-minute-and-ten-second missive to a recently estranged paramour where grief and resilience maintain a tense détente. Skeeter Davis is putting together the pieces, re-laying the foundation, one brick at a time. There is the Beatles-esque insouciance of the opening riff with its sliding minor-major mischief. There is the thick-skinned stance. There are rueful, funny jokes: “I thought my tears would never leave/ They’ve been faithful since he went away.” And there is the poignant, tugging sense that the song’s outward swagger is a brave face on a process of grieving which will be a longer-than-hoped-for project.
Except subtly, there is little Blood On The Tracks-style recrimination towards the person who let her down. There is no autopsy. This is lost love as practical matter — painful in the extreme, but nothing a beautiful, double-tough woman of experience hasn’t handled a time or two in her trajectory. A residual victim of strange intra-family violence as a child, daughter to a suicidal mother, born Mary Frances but nicknamed “Skeeter” by her grandfather as a child owing to her excess energy, as though there is no less reviled creature that also possesses energy. (“Otter Davis?”) There’s the Davis Sisters and “The End Of The World.” The entire treatment, the full entertainment industry rigmarole.
Here’s how we know she’s come out the other side: in the final verse her eye is finally wandering:
I might just find me a new love
If a new love comes my way
The delivery is delightfully coy — “if a new love comes my way.” She’s friggin’ Skeeter Davis, for God’s sake. Love’s coming. For all of the times I’ve played the song and laughed and cried about a situation that seems too stupid to even to even start to explain, I owe it a lifetime’s worth of gratitude. They say the first step to getting out of a hole is to stop digging. Well dig this:
My hopes are high
My eyes are dry
I didn’t cry today
Here comes the sun.
DOLLY YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | David Cantwell on Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton’s WE FOUND IT | Lucy Sante on Johnny & June Carter Cash’s JACKSON | Mimi Lipson on George Jones’s WALK THROUGH THIS WORLD WITH ME | Steacy Easton on Olivia Newton-John’s LET ME BE THERE | Annie Zaleski on Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E | Carl Wilson on Tom T. Hall’s THAT’S HOW I GOT TO MEMPHIS | Josh Glenn on Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s BACK TO TENNESSEE | Elizabeth Nelson on Skeeter Davis’s I DIDN’T CRY TODAY | Carlo Rotella on Buck Owens’ TOGETHER AGAIN | Lynn Peril on Roger Miller’s THE MOON IS HIGH | Erik Davis on Kris Kristofferson’s SUNDAY MORNIN’ COMIN’ DOWN | Francesca Royster on Linda Martell’s BAD CASE OF THE BLUES | Amanda Martinez on Bobbie Gentry’s FANCY | Erin Osmon on John Prine’s PARADISE | Douglas Wolk on The Byrds’ DRUG STORE TRUCK DRIVIN’ MAN | David Warner on Willie Nelson’s WHISKEY RIVER | Will Groff on Tanya Tucker’s DELTA DAWN | Natalie Weiner on Dolly Parton’s IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS (WHEN TIMES WERE BAD) | Charlie Mitchell on Stonewall Jackson’s I WASHED MY HANDS IN MUDDY WATER | Nadine Hubbs on Dolly Parton’s COAT OF MANY COLORS | Jada Watson on Loretta Lynn’s DON’T COME HOME A DRINKIN’ (WITH LOVIN’ ON YOUR MIND) | Adam McGovern on Johnny Cash’s THE MAN IN BLACK | Stephen Thomas Erlewine on Dick Curless’s A TOMBSTONE EVERY MILE | Alan Scherstuhl on Waylon Jennings’s GOOD HEARTED WOMAN | Alex Brook Lynn on Bobby Bare’s THE WINNER. PLUS: Peter Doyle on Jerry Reed’s GUITAR MAN | Brian Berger on Charley Pride’s IS ANYBODY GOING TO SAN ANTONE.
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