Vince Gill, “What You Give Away”
This is why I love country music. This is why I wade through all the songs about redneck pride and checking for ticks. I keep coming back for songs like this, songs that touch on the deeper meaning of everyday existence.
“What You Give Away” captures the essential truth that our existence is meaningless without using it in service to others. That your life, when ended, has been in vain if you haven’t used the gifts God gave you to make your small corner of the world a better place.
Is there room for a song like this on country radio these days? Possibly not. But every hot young star and those who dream to be one should listen to this on repeat, then challenge themselves to make music with a similar sense of purpose. A masterpiece.
Listen: What You Give Away
Buy: What You Give Away
There are a lot of meaningful songs that get airplay. Unfortunately the performance given this song is often too wimpy for my tastes. An artist you don’t like, Brad Paisley has cut a number of very meaningful songs on his albums. Some, such as ” He Didn’t Have to Be” and “Whiskey Lullaby”, I would put up against anyone’s songs, anywhere or any time for meaningful content.
A group I really dislike, Rascal Flatts, has issued a number of meaningful songs, most notably “Sarabeth (Skin)” . That song in the hands of Vince Gill would have been a classic. This is not to say that Vince can’t get very wimpy at times, but at least he has always had artist integrity – that and more talent than God should give anyone!
Unfortunately, that said, there is always a lot of crap on the radio. Noted SF writer Theodore Sturgeon once postulated that 90% of everything is crap. He was correct, then, now and always. Some of it is fun like “Goodbye Earl”, “White Trash Wedding” , “Dearly Beloved” and “Achy Breaky Heart”, but it is crap nonetheless
I suspect that such shall continue to be the case
“Whiskey Lullaby” was among the top 100 of my 400 best contemporary singles, and “Alcohol” was on the list as well. I don’t like Paisley overall, but I have given him credit when due. I liked “He Didn’t Have to Be” and “Celebrity”. He’s an amazing musician, but as a singer, I have trouble hearing any emotion or connection to the material in his voice when he sings.
I wouldn’t call any of the songs you listed “crap”, nor do I agree that 90% of everything is crap, though that admittedly may be semantics on my part, as that’s not a word I tend to use. It’s certainly gotten to the point where I only like about one of every five or six records that become radio hits, and I don’t feel that way about any other period in the history of country music that I’m familiar with. Thankfully, the artists that used to be played on the radio are still making great music and I’m still loving it, and I’ve discovered a lot of non-radio acts that I enjoy tremendously, so I still end up enjoying a lot of current country music.
I think that the production of “Goodbye Earl” and “Achy Breaky Heart” have aged terribly, whereas “White Trash Wedding” is aging well because the production of it, and everything on “Home” for that matter, is timeless (in the sense that it doesn’t reek of the production gimmicks that were popular at the time.)
When I finally get around to doing a “Mining the Catalog” of the Dixie Chicks, that’s a point I want to bring up about “Fly”. Overall, the record still sounds good, but there are a couple of tracks – “If I Fall”, “Earl”, “Some Days You Gotta Dance” – that sound too slick. The problem with lacing country records with the pop sounds of the day is that you end up dating the material to that period. That’s why when you hear Rosanne Cash or Ronnie Milsap records from the early 80’s, you know they’re from the early 80’s. But a Jones or Haggard track from the same period fits seamlessly into their catalog.
This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with pop-flavored country records, as I tend to like many of them, but by their very nature they don’t have that timeless quality that great traditional country music has.
The best stuff from any era tends to survive whereas the inferior stuff is forgotten. William Styron is remembered today but the Harlequin romance novels of the 1960s are gone, replaced by todays garbage.
I cannot remember a time when I liked as much as half the music played on the radio. True, I had a higher tolerence for the stuff I didn’t like ,but I’m not sure that means anything other than that I’ve become more curmudgeonly over the years.
The point about mixing pop influences with country tending to date the music is well taken, but it simply means that it will need to be that much better to survive. I do think the emphasis on synthesizers during the 80s is what caused much of the dated sound but I think “Seven Year Ache” will still be viable 30 years from now
Being a huge country fan, my specialty is emotional and powerful songs. If you can touch me to the heart then you’ve one your way into a good reputation with me.
Such songs as “Believe”, “He Didn’t Have To Be”, “My Wish”, “Alyssa Lies”, and “Anyway” are amougn these.
But this song, man this takes the ckae. I heard him play this on one of the awards hows and I mesmorized immediatly. Vince is one of the the most talented artists to ever hit the country scene and when i saw him win a Grammy for “The Reason Why”, another powerful song for me, I was happy to see him back to his prime. I’m very afraid this song will be overlooked by the more modern rock type of songs, but I hope I’m wrong.
A++ in my book if its not to bold to place it that way!
I love deep emotional stuff more than I like the fluffy (Or crappy stuff), but occasionally I do enjoy my guilty pleasures (Jo Dee Messina Delicious Surprise). This song falls into the first group and I can’t rave about this song enough this has to be one of Vince’s best songs, in fact I’d go so far as to say it is his best song yet. There’s so much great material on These Days that I hope tha world will get to hear someday.
P.S. I have a friend sitting here with me who says to check out Kathleen Edwards if you like some alt-country.
Well, I have to disclaim that I’m gonna be very biased about this song. I am an absolute huger than huge Vince Gill fan. He is the guy who got me firmly cemented into country music. I love his voice; I could listen it to it sing anything in the world. I was beside myself when he released the These Days boxset. So, needless to say, I love this song. Who in country music is more appropriate to sing this song than Mr. Nice Guy himself? Sure, he’s not perfect, but close enough for me. In fact, I am a fan who never wants to meet him because I know I would have no idea what to say to him, no matter how much time I’ve had to think about it. So, I’m such a huge fan that I couldn’t be a stocker, if that makes any sense.