Listening to old songs gives new meanings

What did they say?

We were returning from a trip a couple of weeks ago. The radio was tuned to a classic country station. (“Classic country” means the songs have been around so long that even I have heard them before.)


Out of the blue, my wife said: “Just so you know, if you go to New England, you can count on staying there.”

I studied the road while I tried to figure out what she was talking about.

“Was I going to New England?” I asked. “Because I’m pretty sure I’m on the road headed home. I’ve been to our house before, so I’m fairly certain this is the route.”

“The song,” she said, pointing toward the radio.

I retuned my ears and realized that Reba McEntire was singing an old song about a woman who knows that when her husband goes to Boston on business, he’s actually going on monkey business.

Reba was singing: “You know it’s not too late, ’cause you’ll always have a place to come back to, when whoever’s in New England’s through with you.”

I opened my defense.

“First of all,” I said, “I’ve never even been to New England. And I don’t really have a hankering to go. From what I’ve seen on television, all the women up there have Kennedy hair and talk funny. Anyway, I bet they don’t even wear bikinis on the beaches because it’s too cold.”

“I’m just saying,” my wife said, “you go there, you’re not coming back to me.”

I had to admit that those were odd lyrics for a female singer, kind of a Stand By Your Man, Part 2. If it was the Dixie Chicks singing that instead of Reba, they’d probably already have that guy in the car trunk by now.

Reba must have taken some heat for saying, in effect, “I’ll be here when you get home, honey.”

Honey? That reminds me of another song whose lyrics were equally pretty but stupid. In 1968, Bobby Goldsboro had a hit with Honey, about a man whose wife or girlfriend had died. He sounds heartbroken, but his choice of words makes me wonder whether he might have pushed her over the ledge, either literally or figuratively. Some excerpts:

“I laughed at her and she got mad …”

“(She) came runnin’ in all excited, slipped and almost hurt herself, and I laughed till I cried …”

“Kinda dumb and kinda smart …”

“One day while I was not at home, while she was there and all alone, the angels came.”

I always wondered whether maybe the angel did poor Honey a favor and took her away from a cruel jerk. Maybe they should reopen that cold case and bring in the CSI. It’s funny how songs seem different if you actually listen to them.

My wife and I got to our house and are still married. If I wrote a song about her, it would be so full of praise that no self-respecting, achy-breaky country radio station would play it.

I still don’t want to fly up to New England, but that’s fine with me. I like it just where we both are.