At this point in Toby Keith’s career, he is most associated with a tough guy, ultra-masculine persona that he is usually all too happy to perpetuate. So, it is always a pleasant treat when he slows things down and reminds us that he actually has one of the better voices in contemporary country music. Furthermore, his strong vocals naturally wrap around a ballad better than many of his more ballad heavy peers, which is well demonstrated in his latest single, the jazz style “Cryin’ for Me (Wayman’s Song)”.
As the parenthetical note suggests, “Cryin’ for Me” is a tribute to one of Keith’s very close friends, basketball star and jazz Bassist, Wayman Tisdale who died after losing his battle with cancer. Backed by a gentle jazz style production, including prominent saxophone (Dave Koz), the song opens with a recording of Wayman’s outgoing voice message, which is later effectively referenced:
“I got up and dialed your number and your voice came on the line;
That old familiar message I heard a thousand times.
It said, ‘Sorry that I missed you leave a message and God bless.’
I know you think I’m crazy, but I had to hear your voice, I guess.”
Instead of the typical generalities that are often in songs about the loss of loved ones, some of the lyrics of “Cryin’ for Me” are an insider’s look at the man about whom Keith is singing. Nevertheless, Keith’s palpable emotion is enough to make this song relatable to all who have lost. In one of the rare occasions that Keith abandons his typical macho swagger to expose himself in a more vulnerable way, we are privileged to experience a sensitive performance for a departed friend, as he acknowledges the truth that accompanies death for all of us: “I’m not cryin’ ‘cause I feel so sorry for you;/I’m Cryin’ for me.”
Written by Toby Keith
Listen: Toby Keith, Cryin’ for Me