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?
Grandpa Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days, The Judds
Album: Rockin’ With the Rhythm, (1985)
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.
The Grandpa That I Know, Patty Loveless
Album: On Your Way Home (2003)
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.
Grandpa Told Me So, Kenny Chesney
Album: All I Need to Know (1996)
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”.
He Walked on Water, Randy Travis
Album: No Holdin’ Back (1988)
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”
In Color, Jamey Johnson
Album: That Lonesome Song (2008)
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.
Love, Me, Collin Raye
Album: All I Can Be (1992)
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.
Guy Clark wrote “Desperados Waiting For a Train” about his grandma’s boyfriend, whom I’m willing to bet he considered close enough to a grandpa based on the reverence he holds for him in the song.
I posted a video of that song on Roughstock yesterday…
Sweet. That video is from the documentary “Heartworn Highways” and is actually where I remember him talking about the song being about his grandma’s boyfriend. I forgot that he mentioned the guy was like his grandfather though. Good stuff.
Oh boy. Blake writing a post about Grandpa songs. The personal jokes here practically write themselves.
One of the more touching recent pieces about grandparents is Alison Krauss’ “Simple Love,” a song which I actually didn’t care for much until I saw its songwriter, Sarah Siskind, perform it live (as it turns out, she’s the pen behind a number of my favorite recent songs.) There’s a sort of serene magic to the way the song relies more on its musical swells than a profound lyric to carry its message across.
Oh yea, and no Grandpa list can be complete without Aaron Watson’s “Barbed Wire Halo.”
The first verse of David Allan Coe’s “I Still Sing the Old Songs” is about the narrator’s grandpa and kicks some serious hiney.
I’m not a huge Roger Creager fan, but “I Got the Guns” is one of those adrenaline inducing songs.
Ah, I should give my grandparents a call…
Patty Griffin’s song for her grandmother – “Mary” – is one of my favorites.
I never drank the Kool-Aid that made so many like that Collin Raye track – I thought melodically it was a complete rip-off of Someday Soon
Love the Judds and Loveless grandpa songs. That sometimes is near the top of my Patty favorites list out of all her songs.
I liked Love Me when it was first out.
Interesting list and topic, Blake. :)
I thought SheDaisy’s “He’s A Hero” was a sweet tribute.
I think George’s “Love Without End, Amen” is a good one. Even though it’s mainly about fathers…the song would have never heard the advice had it not originally come from the grandfather! haha
But my favorite is definitely the Judds song…it was one of the first country songs I learned the words too (I was born in ’88)!!
Leeann said “Ah, I should give my grandparents a call…”
I had the same thought when I read this thread today. Let’s all call our grandparents – or better yet, go hug their neck if they live close enough.
P.S. go hug Aunt Rita every chance you can ;)
Ok, surprise, I’m going to zero in on Patty’s The Grandpa That I Know…This song is the very embodiment of authentic sentiment that is deeply moving without being schmaltzy in the least. It is as much a character study about a dearly beloved man, a great and simple man, as it is a song about loss and the search for meaning in that loss.
“Grandpa” is full of earthy, gritty poetry:
A tractor never pulled his plow
He walked and cussed, and loved that ground
His hands sowed each and every seed
He’d pray for rain, and fight the weeds
He’d pray for rain, and fight the weeds
This is just one of the many many songs that sets Patty Loveless apart as singer and interpreter of uncanny emotional depth and seasoned artistic maturity.
-Steve from Boston
“Love, Me” still gets me every time.
Actually, me too. I guess I’m a sucker for recoloration.
Love Me will always have a special meaning for me because Collin Raye was the first country artist (outside of Garth) that I became a huge fan of (Vince was right after that). At the time, the music drew my father and I closer and we bonded that summer and saw Collin perform at a fairground when I was the same age as the kid in the song.
Joe Diffie’s version of “The Grandpa That I Know” just came up in my shuffle and I’m gonna have to say that while I really like Patty’s version, I think I might like the production on Diffie’s even better. It’s a little less busy. Okay, I’m gonna go hide now, before the firestorm…
Just a note, and not to take anything away from the song or this list…Randy Travis’ song refers to a great grandfather…”my mama’s daddy was his oldest son.”
when you have aching feet, liniments and topical pain killer can help.^
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