It's funny. I don't tend to like sad songs and I don't generally buy them, yet when this challenge popped up, I immediately thought of several. The first one that came to mind was such an obvious choice that I dimissed it immediately. Next was Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me". Then I thought of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold", followed by REM's "Everybody Hurts". When I remembered David Bowie's epic "Space Oddity", I knew I'd found the one. But then I remembered the old Hank Williams tune "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". I listened to each of them, and each one brought back specific memories and places and times in my life. For instance, anything by Neil Young reminds me of smoking Swisher Sweets cigarillos and walking all over the Turtle Creek golf course late at night during my junior year of high school. And for some reason, the Hank Williams song made me giggle. It's just so over-the-top sad - and I couldn't get my Grandma Mildred out of my head. I think she must have played it for me or sang it to me or something at some point in my life. Anyway, listening to it didn't make me feel sad, but rather silly. ha.
Though all these songs are sad in their own ways, none of them seemed quite right for the challenge. None of them make ME sad, I guess. So I decided to listen to the one I'd dismissed in the first place, and whaddaya know: as soon as the first three notes were plucked out on the guitar, I felt the wave of sadness come over me. Darren was sitting behind me and said, "You know you have to use this one."
It came out in 1992, when Dani was still a baby. I remember hearing the story on the news - Eric Clapton's 4-year old son had fallen out of his mother's 56th floor window in NYC - and feeling completely shaken by it. I genuinely mourned for him - I hurt and cried for a man I'd never meet and a little boy I'd never known. I think it resonated so deeply with me because I was always worried that I'd do something terribly careless and end up losing Dani, or worse. For instance, for a period of time when she was still an infant, I worried that I'd forget that she was in the grocery cart and drive off with my groceries but without my baby. Yeah, I wasn't altogether well back then.
Several months ago - or a couple of years, who knows - I was watching some celebrity show on TV - probably Biography, but again, who knows - about Eric Clapton. He said that he was performing the song in Japan in 2004 when he suddenly realized that he was only performing it, not feeling it. He realized that he'd lost the emotion behind the song. He didn't want it to become just another song in his repertoire that he didn't feel anything about, but he also didn't especially want those feelings back, so he decided to stop performing it altogether. I would imagine that in that moment, he felt a sense of relief and of loss. Letting go must be one of the hardest stages of grief. I cannot imagine.
I always loved his MTV Unplugged version best, so it's the one I'm linking here. I can't believe it's been almost 20 years since the tragedy, and since I first heard the song. Seems like yesterday.