A little over a year ago, a blurb about one of the new Roseanne Cash songs, Etta’s Tune, caught my eye online. Her latest album, The River & the Thread (2014), had recently been released and the story was promoting the album by sharing some of the back stories behind the songs. Upon learning more about Etta’s Tune and then listening to the ballad, I needed to hear more of Roseanne’s songs on the album.
Etta’s Tune is about the wife of Marshall Grant, Johnny Cash’s original bass player. She and Marshall were married for 65 years, which is no small feat for a touring musician. Before Etta died in 2011 she told Roseanne that she and Marshall would ask each other “What’s the temperature darling?” every morning as a way of sort of checking in with each other. Roseanne thought it was such a practical and solid way to start off the day, not to mention all the metaphorical levels the question could imply. So she and her musician husband, John Leventhal, wrote and recorded the song together.
Etta’s Tune moved me to tears the first time I heard about it, and by the time I listened to the song I was all out bawling as my little girl sat on my lap looking at me with interest. The lyrics speak about some of the many hardships the couple faced, and tells the story that eventually led Marshall back “home.” A true love story of flaws and perseverance.
I have listened to the song many, many times and in the process familiarized myself with the rest of the songs on the album. Roseanne has a beautiful, smoky voice and the songs, that she writes herself, remind me that everyone has a story to tell. The way in which she tells her stories is filled with symbolism and beautiful language and metaphors that she masterfully exemplifies. The songs on The River & the Thread are about the American South and some of Roseanne’s roots, including where she grew up in Memphis, TN.
Now I was born above The Mason-Dixon line, but since I was a teenager I have been a country music fan. Growing up, I knew all the top country songs and artists playing on my town’s local radio station, WFRM. Through that love, I also learned to familiarize myself with some of the old greats. My Dad exposed me to Willie Nelson and George Straight from the tape-deck of his pick-up truck. Then I remember being hooked on early Faith Hill and, in fact, I still have a cassette tape of her album Take Me As I, featuring Wild One, which became my theme song for a while.
The more country music I listened to, the more I delved deeper into country roots songs and artists – George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Reba, Tammy Wynette, and of course, Johnny Cash to name a few. When I decided to go to a college that was below the Mason-Dixon line, I gained more exposure to country music and listened to it often with my girlfriends of the south. Dixieland Delight anyone?
At this point in my life, I continue to appreciate the vocals, the acoustics, the performances, the song writers, and the entertainment value of all things country. That said, last Thursday night I seized an opportunity to hear some live music on campus by a talented country singer and songwriter.
The one and only, Roseanne Cash.
A week before the concert, I saw a flyer downtown with her picture on it, and I did a double take. When I took a closer look, I learned that she would be performing on campus the following week. A glimmer of possibility rippled through me. Holy crap, I thought! She is going to sing Etta’s Tune, and I HAVE to be there.
But life gets in the way, and dropping everything to go to a concert spur-of-the-moment on a random Thursday evening is not exactly commonplace in my world right now. Who would I go with? Who would watch the kids? The concert starts at bedtime! The kids need a bath! I have so much to do this week! We are going out of town on Saturday! I have to clean! I have to pack! I should go to bed early tonight because I am exhausted! I can’t possibly go!
Or can I?
All last week, knowing Roseanne would be performing just a few miles away from my house gnawed at me. I knew my husband was not interested in going, and I did not know anyone else who would be interested, so I began to visualize myself going alone. Why not, right? To sit there with Roseanne and soak up live music sounded like a dream. Ah yes, just me and Roseanne. What a great time we would have together!
But I did not buy a ticket. I kept thinking about buying a ticket, but I didn’t. On the evening of the concert, my hubby came home from work and teased me by asking me if I was going to the concert by myself. I looked at him hopefully. “Go if you want,” he said with understanding.
Even then, I asked myself again: Should I? Why am I feeling guilty about treating myself to the concert?
After dinner, I wandered into my office and looked up tickets online. You know, just to see what might be available. Just to see.
Well, what I saw was the determining factor in my decision. There was ONE available seat in Row AA Seat 24, which as it happened was FRONT AND CENTER. One seat. Front and center. Of course, there were still plenty of seats in the way, way, way, way, waaaaaaay back of the auditorium, but there was only this one lonely seat up front. I purchased it faster than you can say Johnny Cash.
I was giddy as I drove to the concert. It felt great to go because this is prime example of something I knew I would probably regret later if I hadn’t decided to go. I was going and that was that!
When I got there I was definitely on the young end of the crowd up front, but I loved being there, even if all alone. For you know what? When Roseanne started to sing, it seriously felt like just me and Roseanne. I was not alone at all. I bawled my eyes out during Etta’s Tune and didn’t take my eyes off her or the band during their entire set. Or her guitar strap that read: CASH.
When the concert was over, I was unbelievably glad I went and so grateful to my hubby for giving me the green light to go do something he knew was important to me. I am glad I cured that gnawing feeling I had about wanting to see her perform. I am glad I silenced my inner naysayer and silenced my cell phone for a few hours to travel to those places in the American South that Roseanne sang about.
You can’t put a price on an experience like that, or whatever other form of entertainment or artists you enjoy. Whether in the form of live music, visiting a museum with your kids, going on a ferry ride, riding a trolley through an unexplored city, walking across a famous bridge, or whatever else lights your fire, being in the present moment while the rest of the world is on hold trumps all.
I guess I’ll catch up on sleep later, and no matter what, even a clean house will ultimately get messy again. These cycles are all part of the stories in which we live. So tomorrow ask a loved one, What’s the temperature darling? You might be surprised about the dialogue that follows.