Several months ago, I listened to an episode of Malcom Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, which explored the songwriting differences between rock and country. It focused on songwriter Bobby Braddock. Braddock is a Nashville legend, having composed ten #1 country hits.
His trademark? Almost all of his hits are sad songs. Soul-crunching tearjerkers, but usually in some thoughtful way. For example, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” considers a man who refused to give up on a lover who left him until he passed away. “Golden Ring” traces the up and down romance of impoverished lovers through a pawn-shop wedding band.
But the one I’ve listened to most often since that podcast is “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” written by Braddock and recorded by Tammy Wynette, in which a mom spells out the words describing her falling out with her husband so that her son won’t know what’s happening. It’s a clever and compelling track; Wynette delivers the heart-tugging chorus with muscle and heart.
Although I’ve never considered myself a country fan, I’ve discovered recently that it’s mostly a reaction to the trashy stuff I’ve heard on the radio. But every time I’ve dived into the stuff that gets critical raves (or, I suppose, podcast features), I’ve really dug it.