Revisionist Revisited: The King of TearsRevisionist History
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- 16 Jun 2020
In our last listener favorite, we revisit The King of Tears from Season 2 where Revisionist History goes to Nashville to talk with Bobby Braddock, who has written more sad songs than almost anyone else. What is it about music that makes us cry? And what sets country music apart?
The wait for new episodes is almost over. Season 5 launches June 18. For updates on the coming season, sign up for our emails at pushkin.fm.
Plus, we hear a sneak peak of the new Cautionary Tales mini-season, hosted by Tim Harford.
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Download the PayPal app today. Terms and conditions apply. Hello, hello, hello, my friends and fellow revisionist historians with just a few days to go before the launch of Season five, the time has come for me to reveal the greatest of all revisionist history episodes thus far has chosen by you, dear listeners, the bronze medal winner we revealed a few weeks ago, a good walk spoiled.
Then the silver medalist free Brian Williams and the winner already chosen by you, my loyal listeners from season to King of Tears.
Why is it the country songs Make US Cry, featuring one of my all time favorite people, the legendary Nashville songwriter Bobby Braddock, co-writer of maybe the saddest song ever written to George Jones Classic.
He stopped loving her today.
He stopped loving her today, you know, because every episode of revisionist history has a back story. And the back story of this one is that two of the very best things that happened to me while I was reporting it never made it into the episode.
The first one was I just spent the day with Bobby Braddock, who is about as emotionally complex as any artist can be. And I was spent lost in the sheer splendor of his interior life.
So I go out for a run in the suburbs of Nashville and I'm driving back to the city along this long, winding, narrow road with huge, gloomy overhanging trees.
It's nighttime and a man comes running down the road towards me and says, I need to borrow your cell phone. I need to call nine one one.
I give it to him. And then I see that an immaculate vintage Mercedes Benz has rolled off the road into a tree. Behind the wheel is a breathtakingly beautiful woman wearing an evening gown who is either unconscious or asleep. It's the most gothic moment ever, the most country music moment ever. And all I can think is, of course, Bobby Braddock lives here.
I tried to put that in the episode, but my editor, Julia Barton wouldn't let me. Hey, it's Julia here. I actually went back and looked at the very first draft of King of Tears. And there's no such story in the script.
Just so we're clear, I adore Julia. I think she's a genius. I'd be lost without her. But she also cut a bit from an interview I did with the writer Jack Eisenhauer, talking about Vince Gill, who is even more Nashville Gothic than Bobby Braddock is. Because I'm petty, because I want to get even. I wanted to play that last clip for you right here in its intro. You know, stop me, Julia.
Malcolm, don't you think the people should hear the episode before they hear the outtake? I'm just saying. So here's what happened with the outtake.
We made the whole episode. We put it together.
It sounded great, but it wasn't making me cry, wasn't even making me feel like an emotion that could be recognized as leading to crying. I couldn't figure out what was going wrong. There were so many sad moments, so many sad moments. And I actually had to get my kids markers and a piece of graph paper. And I graphed out every minute of the episode where the songs were, where you were talking about the songs and all the sad moments.
Eye color coded them. And then I realized what the problem was. You were going off on all these tangents about other sad things, which were really sad, but they were canceling out the main sad thing. So it wasn't working at the end. So it had to go, something had to go, and that was that moment. What's up with Juliette? I had another story I wanted to tell in that episode. I said that I went for a run before the Gothic encounter with a lady in the vintage Mercedes.
It was in Percy Warner Park. For those of you who know Nashville outside the city vasts place, it was super hot that night. So I took off my T-shirt, went off running into the hills and it got lost, totally lost until I was ten miles in and it was getting dark and I had no idea where I was, except that I was miles from anywhere.
So I tried to flag down a car, but it was pitch black. I was shirtless, dripping wet with sweat and my hair was all. While I look like a crazy person, no one would stop.
I was getting more and more desperate until a twenty something woman with lots of tattoos in a battered old Honda on her way back from Bible study stops and lets me in.
Not the tough guys in their F1 fifties, this tiny young woman. And the first thing I say to her is you should not have picked me up in. The first thing she says is you look like you needed help.
I mean, I'm getting choked up just thinking about that act of kindness, and if you want to know why I didn't tell that story as well, just ask Julia.
No, you never wrote about that moment. That's a fantastic story.
And I wish you had told it earlier. Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of our Revisionists Revisited contest, King of Tierce.
In Nashville, Tennessee, there's a songwriter named Bobby Braddock, he's in his 70s, maybe five foot seven, bald head, scruffy beard, wiry, like if you messed with him in a bar, you'd probably lose. The most striking thing about him is his eyes, which are the palace to most intense shade of blue. He wears sunglasses a lot, and it's almost as if he needs to protect the world from that.
Look, I met him on Music Row in Nashville. We had lunch and then we sat in one of the writer's rooms in the Sony building piano in the corner couches to one side. And he talked about his education in the music business.
I think I always had the reputation as being kind of a quirky writer, maybe a little left feel.
The turning point in Braddock's career was a song you've probably heard of. It was performed by Tammy Wynette back when she was the reigning queen of Country Music, 1968, about a mom who had to spell out the word divorcee so her kids wouldn't know their parents were splitting up.
So they have you or she. Yeah, wrote this, did a demo on it and no takers.
But did anybody record? Divorcee was a song with a gimmick, Braddick did a lot of gimmicky songs back then, no one wanted this one. The Braddick went to a friend and longtime collaborator, Curly Putman.
So I said, well, why is that my record? He said, I think around that important part of your song, such a sad song, and your melodies on that part is too happy. What I was doing was. We should stop this.
You see that little bit like a like a soap commercial.
I said, well, what would you do? And he gave a guitar and he had this really mournful singing style. Tammy Wynette was a big fan of Curly saying she loved to sing because he had I mean, it just he sang. It was just so sad, I guess.
We could stop the. So I said to get your guitar was put it on tape, what that divorcee went to.
Number one, it was Bobby Braddock's first great exercise in how to make people cry. From then on, things just got sadder. And. My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You're listening to Revisionist History, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood and. This episode is about something that has never made sense to me. Maybe it's because I'm a Canadian or maybe Americans puzzle about this, too. I'm talking about the bright line that divides American society, not the color line or the ideological line.
I'm talking about the sad song. I don't know why people don't talk about this more, because it's weird for the sake of argument, let's use the Rock magazine, Rolling Stone's list of the best songs of all time, the top 50.
These are the critics choices. Hotel California by the Eagles comes in at forty nine, which, as far as I can tell, is a song about drugs. Tutti Frutti by Little Richard at 43 Tutti Frutti, which I remind you has is its signature lyric. Tutti Frutti. Oh Rudy. Tutti Frutti. Oh Rudy. Tutti frutti. Oh Rudy. Tutti frutti. Oh Rudy wop popolo bop alabam boom.
There's dancing in the street at 40, light my fire, be my baby, Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, Derek and the Dominoes Layla There are songs about wanting to have sex, songs about having sex, songs about getting high. Presumedly, after having sex. No one song in the list like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan are you've gone to the finest schools. All right, Miss Lonely. But you know, you only used to get juiced in it.
Nobody's ever taught you how to live out on the street and now you're going to have to get used to it. I think that's a song about someone who dropped out of Harvard, the number one rock song of all time is about dropping out of Harvard. In all of those 50 songs, nobody dies after a long illness, no marriage disintegrates, nobody's killed on a battlefield, no mother grieves for a son. The closest to any song in Rolling Stone's list comes to being truly sad is Smokey Robinson's Tracks of My Tears, which is, first of all, number 50.
So they put the sad song at the bottom of the list. And secondly, it's about a guy at a party. In their moments of greatest travail, the protagonists of rock and roll sad songs still get to go to parties. Now, just turn on a country music station, especially a traditional country music station, and listen, it's like a different universe. Marriage is going to hell. People staring into their shot glass in a honky tonk, people dying.
Young people heard John Prinze, unwed fathers. It's a devastating bit of songwriting about a teenage mom fleeing town. He sings it with his wife, Rachel, or somewhere else.
Band smoking man. She Bouser be there, how many? She got those last two lines, your daddy never meant to hurt you ever.
He just don't live here.
But you've got his eyes that brutal, like some bad dream. One half of the country, the rock music part, wants the music to be hymns to extraversion. The other half wants to talk about real life dramas and have a good cry. I don't get it. By the way, you know who wrote that unwed fathers song with John Prine, Bobby Braddock? Or maybe you've heard this, another classic recorded by Tammy Wynette. It was Thomastown pesticide.
Coming up next on the Golden Ring, it follows a couple from First Love, the breakup of their marriage by tracing the journey of their wedding ring from pawn shop to pawn shop. It's a weeper who wrote it, Bobby Braddock and Anabranch.
And today, 40 years after he wrote it, Braddock is still mad about a one word change made by the song's producer, Billy Sherrill, because that made his song one crucial degree less sad, what we had.
He says he won't admit it, but I know you're right around. And Billy changed it to says, you won't admit it, but I know you're leaving town. That's not as powerful as your right.
He says you won't admit it, but I know you leave town. She says one thing's for certain, I don't love you anymore. And throws down the ring and she walks out the door.
And country music is supposed to be about real life, you know? I try to reflect that. All right. Golden rain. Which brings us to maybe the greatest country song of all time, certainly the saddest country song of all time, the song that made me get on a plane and go to Nashville. It was recorded by the great George Jones, one of the half dozen or so most iconic figures in the history of country music. You just heard him singing in Golden Ring.
Jones was famously the husband of Tammy Wynette for a time, a hard living, dissolute megastar. Once in the midst of an epic bender, Jones family took his keys away. So he got on his riding mower and drove eight miles to the liquor store to get some whiskey. This was a man who could pour his fractured heart into his music like no one else.
A half dozen times in his career, Jones found a song truly worthy of his talents, but it never got better than he stopped loving her today. I still remember when I first heard that song.
From the day I started thinking about this episode, I haven't been able to get it out of my head. He said, I'll love you till I die. She told him, you forget in time. As the years went slowly by. She still preyed upon his mind. He kept her picture on his wall. Do I need to tell you who wrote that song, Bobby Braddock, Bobby Braddock is the king of Tears and he still loved her through it all.
Hoping she'd come back again. Oh, man. One of the things that got me interested in sad songs was a story my sister in law, Bev, told me she and my brother live in the same area. I grew up in Waterloo County in southern Ontario. And a while ago she went to a performance by a local chamber choir, 30 singers. They sang a cantata called Analysts' by the British composer James Whitbourne, a choral composition which puts the words of Anne Frank's diary to music.
I know this seems like a little bit of a digression from country music, but it's a really useful case study in understanding why some songs make us cry. The performance Bev told me about was on a Sunday afternoon, a free performance at a public library, which is a very utilitarian, very 1960s building on Queen Street in downtown Kitchener. I've been there many times, Wall to Wall Carpet, that old books library smell, which I have to admit I love.
Many people are there in their main reading room and they've moved around all the tables and 100, 120, it's full, pretty much standing room only.
My voice, my own. As they're singing, I think, why is that alternate singing and then I look over and I think somebody else, a soprano, not singing, that's odd because everybody else in their parts is singing.
And I realized they were crying and they couldn't sing.
Bev says she cried pretty much through the entire performance. She was looking straight ahead because she didn't want people to see she was crying, but it didn't matter because everyone was crying. When the performance was over, Bev approached the stage to talk to the soloist, the woman singing Anne Frank's words.
I just went up to her afterwards and congratulated her on the beauty of the piece and then at her singing and I said, And how did you manage to sing without crying? And she said, Well, I couldn't look at Mark the conductor because he was wiping tears from his eyes. And I have my back to the choir. So that was good. And I didn't look at anybody in the audience because they were crying. So I just looked up in the middle distance and I sang.
It was a good thing I had it memorized. I was at home in Canada when Bev told me that story, so I called up Mark, the conductor and the soloist whose name is Natasha, they're actually husband and wife. They only live a few minutes away from my brother. So they came over. Mark sat at the piano in the living room, and Natasha stood behind him and they performed one of the pieces from Analise. They did that day in the library.
This is the last movement and called it's called Anne's Meditation. I see the world. I see the world being slowly turned, turned into a wilderness.
Now, I realize this is a crazy question because we're hearing a piece based on The Diary of Anne Frank, which is one of the most heartbreaking stories from one of the most horrific moments in recent history. But why was everyone crying that day at the Kitchener Library?
The obvious reason is that the music is beautiful. So is Natasha singing, the performance is also authentic. There's nothing contrived about it.
It wasn't a Carnegie Hall. People weren't wearing suits and evening gowns.
They were at the Kitchener Library. And his family is getting books and kids running around and everyone's on stacking chairs with the tables pushed off to the side. But here's the most important thing. This is specific. It's a cantata about the actual experiences of a real person in her own words.
Bev says that when she cried, she started thinking about her own family, Mennonites who escaped terrible persecution in Russia. Natasha says that as she sang about 12 year old Anne Frank, she was thinking about her own daughter, who was 10 and who was sitting right next to Bev in the audience. Beauty and authenticity can create a mood. They set the stage. But I think the thing that pushes us over the top into tears is details. We cry when melancholy collides with specificity and specificity is not something every genre does well.
Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones, written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. It's a song about a conversation a man is having with a silent suffering loved one. The story goes that Mick Jagger dreamt up the verses while sitting at the bedside of his then girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, as she recovered from an overdose.
I watched you suffer. I watched you suffer a dull, aching pain. Now you've decided to show me the same, no sweeping exit or offstage lines could make me feel better or treat you unkind. Wild horses couldn't drag me away. Wild, wild horses couldn't drag me away.
Wild Horses was recorded first by the legendary Gram Parsons not long afterwards, Parsons died of an overdose and his friend and protege, the country music singer Emmylou Harris, made a song in his memory. She wrote it with Bill Danoff. It's called From Boulder to Birmingham. I want to hear some. But all that you can show me is a. And I don't want to hear you say. Someone who has suffered a terrible loss has gotten on a plane and she's so numbed by grief that she can no longer see those around her.
Last time I saw. From Boulder to Birmingham and wild horses are both beautiful, melancholy, they're about the same thing, the ties, the living and the healthy have to those in pain, but which is the sadder song, I don't think there's any question. Wild Horses is generic. Listen to how it starts. Childhood living is easy to do the things you wanted. I bought them for you, graceless lady. You know who I am. You know I can't let you slide through my hands.
What's going on? Any idea? What is Mick yammering on about? Now, compare that to the specificity of looking down from the airplane and seeing nothing but prairie then standing on a mountain and watching a canyon burn.
I watched. First, she references the great black spiritual rock, My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham, the bosom of Abraham is where the righteous dead go while awaiting judgment. Then she sings. And I would also walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham. Now she's locating her grief. I would make a pilgrimage from progressive hippie liberal. Remember, this is 1973 dope smoking Colorado back to the repressive heart of the old south just to see your face.
Two completely different specific images, each with its own set of emotional triggers, and she's piled one on top of another. Mark Voronin, the music director of the choir in my hometown, says that there's a part in Analise that does the same thing and is there in hiding already and and she starts singing in.
The composer has set these words in kind of a style of of an American Sousa march. And so she's talking about being in the bathtub and being scrubbed in the bathtub. And it's a suza. We scrub, scrub, scrub ourselves in Latin. Told him that I'm very, very happy and optimistic music. And Frank in the bathtub to the tune of a Sousa march with the horrors of the Holocaust outside her door, three absolutely concrete images in Mercilus combination.
It just floored me every every time I heard it because it was so close to, you know, our own daughters, you know, to think that that she would have to create this kind of.
Fiction in order to just get through the day. That's how you get tears, you make the story so real and the details so sharp and you add in so many emotional triggers that the listener cannot escape. But it's a risky thing to do, right? If you aren't a talented composer and you don't do a sensitive rendition of those lyrics, they could fall flat, could seem forced, even offensive, far easier just to fall back on the bland cliche that wild horses couldn't drag you away.
Country music makes people cry because it's not afraid to be specific.
You know, she came to see him one last time. Oh, and we all wondered if she were. And it kept running through my mind. These days, it seems like people are putting CBD in everything is a whole lot of noise. There's one company from Vermont that's worth the hype, sunshine.
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There's nothing to lose that's simply safe. Dotcom slash Gladwell. Bobby Braddock was born in Auburndale, Florida, a little town between Tampa and Orlando. His father grew citrus.
They were Church of Christ, just about the most fundamentalist of fundamentalist Christians. Braddick moved to Nashville in 1964 just after getting married to seek his fortune in the music business. He wrote his memoirs a few years ago. It's called A Life on Nashville's Music Row. I read it before I went to see him. And the best way to describe the book is that it's exhausting. I don't mean that in a bad way because I couldn't put it down. But so much happens.
You've lived this incredibly tumultuous, emotionally tumultuous life. Yeah. And in the book, it sounds like the first precipitating event is the death of your son.
Braddock was touring with the country music legend Marty Robbins at the time. He and his wife Sue had a baby. The child was just a few months old when he died.
Whenever I was in town, not on the road. Marty Robbins, every single day we buy fresh flowers to put it on. It's great. We were just pathetic.
He and Sue fight. She cheats on him. He cheats on her. They break up, they get back together. They have a daughter. They divorce. His ex-wife mysteriously vanishes. He drinks a lot, gets into fights, owes enormous sums to the IRS, has a major bout with depression, smokes a lot of pot, lurches from one volcanic event to the next. And through it all, Braddock writes songs, hundreds of them.
Your kind of tolerance for emotional volatility seems. Extraordinary. I guess tolerance is probably a pretty good word for it. Braddock walks over to the keyboard on the other side of the room, he begins to talk about an old girlfriend named Angela who committed suicide by driving her car into the river.
When Angela died, her mother took her baby to raise it. And she sent me a picture of the little girl, Angela's child, which she had about four or five years ago, look just like her mom. Picture of her standing at the yard. And boy, did a number on me. Despite all the dust. He wrote a song about that in 20 minutes, played it for me, then he played his favorite bit of a sad Randy Newman song.
He played me a heartbreaking song he wrote once after getting up in the middle of the night and passing his lover in the hallway. And as he played one weeper after another, I realized that that thing I said about Braddock's tolerance for emotional volatility, tolerance was the wrong word. That was just me projecting my uptight Canadian self on to Braddock. But Braddock is from the musical side of the United States, where emotion is not something to be endured. It's something to be embraced.
At one point when cell phones were still analog, you could buy a scanner and listen into other people's conversations and that's what Braddock does. He can't help himself. A woman complains to her husband for an hour about his lack of affection from the parking lot of the grocery store, then ask them what he wants and he says, maybe Apple, Newtons. And then this is my favorite part. I'm quoting now from Braddock's memoir. The conversation that truly touched me was between a man, perhaps 40, and his mother maybe late 60s, in which the son opened up about sexual problems he was having with his wife.
And I envy the sprinkling of profanities and the mother's invitation to come over to the house, son. And let's open a bottle of whiskey and talk about it, wishing I had that kind of easy and open communication with my mom, then learning that the guy's mother was terminally ill with cancer. If you're keeping track, that's marital difficulties, sex, profanity, whiskey, mom and terminal cancer in one conversation. And it truly touched him.
Do you know what Brett's favorite song is, Vince Gill's Go Rest High on that mountain, which Gil wrote in memory both of his brother, who died young of a heart attack, and fellow country star Keith Whitley, who drank himself to death? Oh, yes.
Oh, my God, when Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless are singing Harmony on that thing, I go nuts still tearing me up knowing that it's about death.
And that's what about Keith Wetland and about his own brother and just the emotion that's in that song.
It's just it's just powerful. Eukaryote agreed. Wish I could see. Angel's faced. It's heartbreaking, he's listening to that song makes me wonder if some portion of what we call ideological division in America actually isn't ideological at all.
How big are the political differences between red and blue states anyway, in the grand scheme of things, not that big party. What we're seeing instead is a difference of emotional opinion, because if your principle form of cultural expression has drinking, sex, suicide, heart attacks, mom and terminal cancer are all on the table for public discussion, then the other half of the country is going to seem really chilly and uncaring. And if you're from the rock and roll half clinging semi, ironically, to Tutti Frutti.
Oh, Rudy, when you listen to a song written about a guy's brother who died young of a heart attack and another guy who drank himself to death, you're going to think, who are these people? Here's another way to think about the sad songline. Let me read you the list of the birthplaces of the performers of the top 20 country songs of all time.
Again, I'm going to use a Rolling Stone magazine list, ready, Arkansas, Virginia, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Mississippi, Georgia, California's Central Valley, by the way, not Los Angeles, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Texas. Kentucky. Alabama. Tennessee. Arkansas. Texas. Texas, Kentucky. Texas.
I could do the top 50 or the top 100 or the top 200, and you get the same pattern. Basically, you cannot be a successful country singer songwriter if you're not from the South. It's impossible. There's one exception, which is the great songwriter Harlan Howard, who was born in Detroit. But almost immediately thereafter, his family moves to a farm in rural Kentucky. It's like the five second rule when you drop a piece of food on the floor, if it's not on the ground long enough, it doesn't count.
As far as I can tell, there are no Jews on a country list, almost no Catholics, only two black people. It's white Southern Protestants all the way down. Now, compare that to the rock and roll list, you've got Jews from Minnesota, black people from Detroit, Catholics from New Jersey, middle class British art school dropouts, Canadians, Jamaicans, rock and roll is the Rainbow Coalition. That diversity is a good thing. It's why there's so much innovation in rock and roll.
But you pay a price for that.
There was a very clever bit of research published recently by Colin Morris in the magazine The Pudding. He analysed 15000 popular songs using an algorithm that compresses digital files. So if you take out the repetitive bits in a song, how much of it is left? Morris's big finding is that rock and roll as a genre is really, really repetitive. Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, the Beatles. If you take out the duplicative parts, their music shrinks by 60 percent.
That's what happens when everyone is from somewhere different. Nobody speaks the same language. So you have to use cliche, the same phrases over and over again, because if you go deeper or try to get more specific, you start to lose people.
Country music, on the other hand, is not nearly as repetitive, when Morris ran the lyrics of popular country singers through his algorithm, they only shrank by about 40 percent, a third less than the rock and rollers. Nor is hip hop repetitive, which makes sense. The birthplaces of everyone on Rolling Stone's list of greatest rap songs reads like an urban version of the country list. Queens, South Central. L.A., Brooklyn. Long Island. South Central.
Long Beach. Houston, Queens. The Bronx. Englewood, New Jersey. The Bronx. Hip hop and country are both tightly knit musical communities. And when you're speaking to people who understand your world and your culture and your language, you can tell much more complicated stories. You can use much more precise imagery. You can lay yourself bare because you're among your own. In the book, it sounds like your relationship with Sparky was the one that seemed the most creatively fruitful.
It was. It was Sparky was a beautiful blonde from northern Alabama, the great love of Bobby Braddock's life. Why was that?
I think because my mother made her so strong.
I mean, is it the sort of additional thing?
I think that's why I found Bobby Braddock's book so exhausting. It's because everything is felt. Everything is a mountain peak. And Sparky Sparky was Everest high altitude infatuation. It's a sure thing that make people go absolutely crazy, you know, and that was the case with her, you know. That's what gets the animal instinct of people maybe who haven't evolved as much as they should and caused them to go out and get a gun, blow somebody's brains out over some gun, not mean they can't stand the thought of someone, you know, having sex with the person that he loves.
Braddock and Sparky were on and off lovers for years. It was intense, painful, euphoric. When it ended, Braddock was in pieces.
He kept her picture on the wall. Went half crazy now with the that's Braddick in the original demo he made of he stopped loving her today, he still loved her through it all.
Hoping she'd come back with. So I'm not sure where it came from. It may have come partly, you know, honestly not know the interest in how could it not? Yeah, well, if I make it, I think it probably did, but I just I can't see it. I can't see that for the certainly the more they'll carry him away.
I felt like Braddick shrink at that moment, listening to his tangled dreams and then wanting to shake him at the end of the session. It Sparky. Sparky. They found some letters, but he's been. I mean, you wrote a song in the middle of the great defining love affair of your life, if the relationship ends and you write, write a song about the heartbreak of. That a man carries to his grave. I mean, yeah, that's true, could it be could it be more clear?
I went to see him one last time. Bobby Braddock wrote, he stopped loving her today with his friend Curly in 1977, they took it to the singer George Jones. Jones was then at his lowest ebb, a wreck strung out on cocaine and whiskey. He just checked out of a psychiatric hospital. The great love of his life, Tammy Wynette had embodied her hit song Divorcee and left him. Jones had just nearly shot and killed one of his best friends.
The heartbroken Bobby Braddock has written a song about a man who cannot stop loving a woman. And it's sung by the heartbroken George Jones, who cannot stop loving a woman, kept some letters by his bed.
In 1962. He had underlined in red. Underlined in red, every single I love you, every single I love you. I went to see him just today. But I didn't see Nolting. All dressed up to go away. First time I'd seen him smile in years. Why did he finally turn his back on his great love? Why is this the first time he smiled in years? Because he's dead.
Only death could end his love story for. And soon they'll carry out. He stopped loving her today. It's totally over the top model and sentimental kichi, call it whatever you want, just don't fight it.
One thing that Bobby Braddock told me in passing that I think about a lot is that he thought of the character in his song as a bad role model. The man was obsessed. He couldn't let go. But that's the point, right? That's why we cry, because the song manages to find beauty and even a little bit of grandeur in someone's frailty.
He stopped loving her today. Wild horses, please. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Grand Ole Opry House to the celebration of life of George Glenn Jonge, one of the most important people ever of all time and of any time in the history of country music.
George Jones died in 2013. Everyone who was anyone in country music came to his memorial service. You should watch it if you get the chance. It's on YouTube or two hours and 41 minutes of it because it's everything I've been talking about. Vince Gill stands up with Patty Loveless and sings Go Rest High on that mountain and breaks down halfway through.
Travis Tritt remembers a conversation he once had with Kris Kristofferson about how they expected George Jones to have died years before, and I looked at Kris and I made the comment, you know, with all the years of hard living that George had, who would have ever thought that he would outlive Tammy? And Chris looked at me and said, had it not been for Nancy, he would not have. Nancy Jones, George Jones is fourth and final wife, the real love of his life, his soul mate and companion, Travis Tritt holds out his hand towards Nancy, who's sitting right in the front row.
George said it many times. She's my angel and she saved my life. And so we owe you a debt of gratitude. Then comes the crowning moment of the day, the final performance, Alan Jackson strides out onto the stage, a big, rangy guy, craggy features cowboy boots, jeans, long coat, white Stetson.
He looks squarely at Nancy Jones and without introduction, launches into. He stopped loving her today.
He said, I'll love you till I die.
She told him, you get tired. As the years went slow and you realize as he sings, that Braddock's song has gotten even more specific, it's no longer about a long ago love affair.
It's about right now. This is the day George Jones stopped loving Nancy Jones. Alan Jackson takes off his hat and places it over his heart. He stopped loving her. Today. And if you are crying, I can't help you. One of the three greats of our time, ladies and gentlemen, at all time. That's Alan Jackson. Thank you so much. Revisionist history is produced by McLibel and Jacob Smith with Camille Baptista, Stephanie Daniel and CEO Mara Martinez White.
Our editor is Julia Barton Flon. Williams is our engineer, original music by Louis Scarra special thanks to Andy Bowers and Jacob Weisberg. I'm Malcolm Gladwell. OK, now for the last cut, which Julia denied you all those years ago. Oh, my God. When Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless are singing harmony on that thing, I go nuts. It's still terrible, you know that it's about death and that's related about Keith Witling did about his own brother and just the emotion that's in that song.
It's just it's just powerful debut. Eukaryote agreed. I wish I could see. By the way, speaking of skill, when I was in Nashville, I went to see a guy named Jack Eisenhauer who wrote a great book about country music. Eisenhower talked about going to a funeral in town and spotting Vince Gill at the front of the church just before he was about to perform.
And he was sitting with his guitar tuning it up, and he was crying before he ever got up on air, got up to sing. Oh, he was crying as a grown man who had to sing in two minutes and got up and saying some hymn I never heard heard before about Jesus or whatever. And it was just like, oh my God.
I mean, this is country music. Thank you, Vince, Vince Gill actually has a new album out called O'Chee, which you should go and listen to. And Jack Eisenhauer is the author of many books, including He Stopped Loving Her Today, all about the recording of George Jones, his greatest album. Jack's one of the secret stars of this episode. And now I'm going to give him the credit he deserves. ICN h o u r go read him.
And if you want to get a sneak peek at the new episodes of Revisionist history, sign up for our newsletter at Pushkin's FM. We have some great shows coming out right now, including a new mini season of Tim Harford's brilliant cautionary tales. It's six episodes unpacking how the world got turned upside down by covid-19. And you'll hear a short excerpt next. So wipe your tears. See you Thursday, June 18th, with the new season and to tide you over, here's a little bit of Tim Harford.
Imagine the scene, a large ballroom. Twelve hundred people are seated around tables enjoying the finest dining that 1977 has to offer, which admittedly isn't saying much. But everyone's having a wonderful evening at the Beverly Hills Supper Club, which naturally, given the name is just outside Cincinnati. There's a comedy duo on stage and the headline performer is expected very soon. The singer and TV personality John Davidson, a big star at the time.
But what the audience here doesn't know is that on the other side of this sprawling complex of function rooms, something's gone wrong. A fire has broken out and it's spreading fast. The fire department has already been called and the fire is still some distance away from the crowded cabaret room. But the more it spreads, more fuel it finds, the hotter it gets and the faster it moves safety standards at the supper club on what they should be. There isn't a fire alarm.
There isn't a sprinkler system, and there isn't a lot of time. And nobody in that room knows that the fire is on its way. One remarkable young man, Walter Bailey, did his best. Bailey was barely more than a boy. He was 18 years old and he worked as an assistant waiter. Bailey had seen the fire and he realized that although it was a long way from the cabaret room, somebody needed to tell all those people to start evacuating.
Walter Bailey found the supervisor in the cabaret room, explained about the fire and asked him to clear the room. The supervisor looked confused. Bailey told him again. The supervisor turned and walked off to clear the room, thought Bailey, who found 70 people lining up to get into the cabaret room. Bailey led them instead to safety.
When he returned, he found that nobody inside the cabaret room. When I'm Tim Harford and you're listening to cautionary tales. This cautionary tale is going to be a little different. I hope that's OK. The world seems different these days. So I've been writing some new stories for you to suit the times we're in. There'll be a little shorter, little simpler and perhaps a little more focused on the challenges we face right now. And this episode is different in another way, too, because in a small way, it's about me, about what I got wrong.
And I hope about what you can learn from my mistakes. We'll come back to my mistakes and to the fire in the Beverly Hills Supper Club, but first I wanted to ask you a question. Do you remember Captain Mastrangelo, Revathi, you Imust Cautionary Tales, Season one, Episode one, it was about an oil tanker the size of the Chrysler Building, a ship with a name Torrey Canyon.
That ship was headed for a sunken mass of rocks with a vicious reputation called the Seven Stones and Captain Pastrana Ricchiardi Paul pasturing. Ruggieri steered his ship closer and closer and closer to disaster. You can go and listen again if you like, oh, wait. The mystery of Torrey Canyon, you may remember, is that while Captain Ruggieri was steering his ship towards the rocks, the weather was good, the visibility was good. Torrey Canyon had radar and the seven stones were clearly marked both on all the charts and by a lighthouse vessel warning ships to keep away.
There was still time to change course, just as there was still time to evacuate the cabaret room. And yet Torrey Canyon did not turn just as the people in the Supper Club cabaret room did not move.
Captain Rosatti was a man in a hurry, he'd made a plan to head straight for a harbor 150 miles beyond those rocks, but his original course was charted safely through deep open water. That, at least, was the plan. But now new information is coming in. The ship has drifted off the expected course overnight, closer to shore. He's now heading for a tight squeeze. Past seven stones fishing boats have appeared, blocking his way. The current is pushing him towards the rocks.
His plan is getting riskier and riskier. But at no point does he stop, reflect and rethink everything. Instead, with each new piece of bad news, he furrows his brow and rededicating himself to his original plan. So here's my confession. In the face of the growing coronavirus epidemic, I behaved in exactly the same way. It took me far too long to really think about the information that was coming my way. It took me even longer to take action.
I, too, am captain visuality.