Thursday, February 14, 2013

Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson -- "Good Hearted Woman" (1976)

But she never complains
Of the bad times or bad things he's done
She just talks about the good times they've had
And all the good times to come

The heroine of this song doesn't just see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty -- she sees that half-full glass as filled up to overflowing.

My daughters are "mirror-image" twins -- that is, they are identical twins who are opposites in certain ways.  For example, one of my daughters is left-handed, and the other is right-handed.  (Some mirror-image twins have reversed internal organs -- which isn't really a problem, but which probably comes as a major surprise to any doctor who examines the reversed twin without knowing his or her medical history.)

Mirror-image twins
"Good Hearted Woman" is the mirror-image twin of "Stand By Your Man."  Both are about patient, all-forgiving wives who tolerate the behavior of their narcissistic and immature husbands.  

"Stand By Your Man" was co-written and recorded by Tammy Wynette, a female singer who was one of the great mainstream, Nashville-based country music superstars.  By contrast, "Good Hearted Woman" was written and performed by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, two male performers who were the giants of Texas-based "outlaw" country-western music.

And the two songs have a very different mood.  The woman in Tammy's song seems to be suffering -- she is paying a price for her fidelity to a man who seems to have a lot of issues -- while I see the woman in Willie and Waylon's song as having a smile on her face because her husband is lovable and charming in spite of his foibles.

Willie and Waylon
You can't write about Texas popular music and leave out the outlaws like Willie and Waylon.  Their music is as crucial to the psyche and popular culture of Texas as the "Summer of Love" groups are to the psyche and culture of San Francisco.  Until they came along, I think a lot of people (like me) viewed country music as formulaic and sappy.  But Nelson and Jennings were great songwriters and exceptional singers, who combined finesse and style with raw emotion and a whole lotta soul.

I would have had a hard time choosing just one of them to feature in "29 Posts in 28 Days," but fortunately I didn't have to.  Their live duet of "Good Hearted Woman" was featured on the groundbreaking 1976 album Wanted! The Outlaws, which featured previously released material by Nelson, Jennings, Jessi Colter (Jennings' wife), and Tompall Glaser.  It was the first country album to sell a million copies.  The Nelson-Jennings "Good Hearted Woman" made it to #1 on the Billboard "Hot Country Singles" chart.

Willie and Waylon had written the song in 1969 while they were staying at a hotel in Fort Worth.  The story goes that the song was inspired by a newspaper story that Waylon read that referred to Tina Turner as "a good-hearted woman loving two-timing men."  He tracked down Nelson, who was in the middle of a poker game.  Jennings joined the game, and the two of them worked out the lyrics as they played.  

(That may be the best story I've ever read about how a popular song came to be written.)

Before I share the Wanted! The Outlaws version of "Good Hearted Woman," here's Waylon Jennings' solo version of the song, which was released in 1972 and was a #3 country-western hit.  The two performances have a lot in common -- including the key change before the second chorus:

Here's the live Nelson-Jennings recording of "Good Hearted Woman."  Happy Valentine's Day, ladies!

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. This resonates on several different levels--Waylon Jennings lived to team up with Willie Nelson because he was NOT on the plane that crashed at Clear Lake IA in Feb. 1959, taking the lives of Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and J. P. Richardson (and presumably, the pilot). And I think it was Mr. Jennings who commented (probably referring to award shows) that "Music is not a competitive sport". Many years ago I saw Willie Nelson as a guest on "A Prairie Home Companion" when they performed at Pomona College in Claremont CA. Some performers look like they just stepped out of a "bandbox"; Mr. Nelson looks like he just stepped out of a boxcar. He played this beat up guitar that looked like something found in the trash bin behind "Moe Music Mart--we take anything in trade". After the show, I got to meet Garrison Keillor, and he autographed a poster for me. This poster now occupies a place of honor above my younger daughter's radio. The song title brings to mind, the Robert Johnson song, "Kind Hearted Woman". Back in 2001, I was visiting Melbourne, Australia, mostly to ride their extensive tramway system and have other wonderful railway experiences (like riding in a steam locomotive and running a tramcar). While in the downtown Post Office, I heard music, and found two young Asian fellows sitting on the steps, one playing a guitar and one "blowin' harp". When they did "Kind Hearted Woman", I thought, "You can't get much further from the Delta, but here's Mr. Johnson's music, half way to the South Pole." One evening during my visit, I took the #96 tram to the end of the line, where Blues Before Sunrise, the #1 local Blues band was playing in a hotel pub. I bought one of their CDs and had it autographed, with the caveat that their regular harmonica player was in Memphis (it was another ten years before I would make the pilgrimage). A few years later, they issued another CD, so I bought one by mail order. It arrived with a note "You probably have the only copy in the Northern Hemisphere." G'day, Mate!