Belated though this post may be, it is richly deserved. In country music this year, Grandpa has been turning up everywhere. On the title track of Darius Rucker’s new album, he’s giving Darius sage advice that has sweetened his life considerably. He’s also sat down with Jamey Johnson for an afternoon with the photo album on “In Color”, and he’s telling his honeymoon tales to an impatient Brad Paisley. (I know “Waitin’ on a Woman” never mentions grandkids, but since the honeymoon was worth it, don’t you figure that a family had to be a part of the old man’s life?) Anyway, Grandparent’s Day came and went on Sunday, September 14, so we are here to honor the wise ways of our elders. Here are six songs that praise the name of dear Grandpa. What’s your favorite song about grandparents (you too, Grandma!) and their infinite intelligence?
The Judds’ classic from 1985 is a young girl’s questioning of her grandfather as she wonders if the past was as sweet as she’d been promised. She looks back longingly at a world where families prayed at the supper table, daddies stayed to support their families and that progress was made without straying from the standard morals and values that she holds dear. That Grandpa never answers her questions is an interesting sidenote to the Grammy-winning song.
Easily one of country music’s best-ever ballads about death, Loveless takes on the character of a young girl experiencing her first funeral. She’s focused on the rain, her aching feet and uncomfortable clothes, all to avoid confronting her true feelings about her first experience with a final goodbye. With every detail, she delivers a poignant piece that shows death as a possible beginning rather than an ending.
One of Kenny Chesney’s first hits (an almost-Top 20 single from 1996), “Grandpa Told Me So” tells the story of the old sage’s advice being a cornerstone of the young man’s childhood. Whether dreaming of that first car, learning valuable lessons in love or living to the limit, the words had a significant impact on the narrator. Eventually, he must say a final goodbye to his grandfather and heed the advice that “There’ll be times when you wanna hold on, but you gotta let go”.
Death comes calling for the old man in the Travis tune, but not before he’s gained the lifelong devotion of his grandson. Grandpa regales the little boy with tales of cowboy adventures, and in turn the youngster yearns to follow in his footsteps. And how about this for a retirement plan: “He wore starched white shirts buttoned at the neck/And he’d sit in the shade and watch the chickens peck”
Jamey Johnson’s gritty tale about his grandfather and the memories that never die is full of treasure. The verses explain how the old man has lived a rich life, from his days in the Great Depression to his struggles in the war to finally settling down with the woman he loves, all visible through the pictures that he’s kept throughout the years. Seeing the boy in awe at the memories in those photographs, Grandpa simply says “You should’ve seen it in color”. It’s a captivating piece of art.
One of the popular story songs from the early ’90s (a #1 song in 1992 and a finalist for CMA Song of the Year), Raye’s rendition of this Skip Ewing-Max T. Barnes song is a man’s recollection of his grandparents’ relationship, with the star-crossed lovers running away to be married. Of course, as the grandfather’s story tells, their plans are derailed and the woman resorts to writing a note telling him to wait patiently. When it’s revealed in the final verse that she’s passed away, the message in the letter takes on special meaning.