Monday, 2 October 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia (Reba McEntire)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. Last week we looked at Vicky Lawrence's version of The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia and this week we are looking at Reba McEntire's 1991 version from her album For My Broken Heart.
                                 Image result for for my broken heart reba
I wrote last week about my feelings about the original recording of this song. What made it work for me as a child (and as an adult revisiting it) is the air of mystery.

What happened to the brother?  Was he lynched? Was it a show trial?

Why couldn't the sister get there in time? They hung my brother before I could say.....Where was she? Why didn't she come forward sooner? What prevented her? (This is why I always pictured it as rough justice. That they hanged him on the spot. Otherwise, why could she not come forward?)

Where did she hide the body? But that's one body that'll never be found....

Was she a psychopath? I mean, she murdered her brother's slutty wife and hid the body and then murdered Andy for dissing her brother ('cause to tell you the truth, I been with her myself)  and telling his best friend his wife was a slapper. Was she crazy? Or was this in itself rough justice. 'We take care of our own' sort of thinking.

I don't know, but I pondered these things over and over as a child. I also sat in front of the mirror and lip-synced the song trying to capture that crazed southern hard-ass murderer look on the last line.

That probably says a lot about me as a child.

Why this song was so meaningful to me was the sense of mystery. I didn't want to KNOW the answers. I wanted to IMAGINE all the possibilities.

This is where, to me, the Reba McEntire version fails. She wants to fill in the missing bits. The video spells out everything in painstaking detail.

And just like an episode of Poirot, it reiterates the findings over and over just in case it was not clear the first time or you are not clever enough to understand.  Like this:

Poirot: She stabbed her huzband when zey were all watching ze eclipse. Clever, non?
Inspector Japp: So you're saying that Lady Wishforit waited until the eclipse and then stabbed her husband?
Poirot: Oui, Monsier. And zat iz how Lady Wishforit was  able to murder her huzband when no one was watching.
Inspector Japp: Because we were all watching the eclipse. Astounding!

I personally feel like it makes the song weaker rather than stronger, but I know I am in the minority on this. I also prefer the tough- as- nails- cold- murderer feeling that gave me chills rather than this poor pitiful Pearl in bad age makeup that Reba does.

That probably says a lot about me now.

But why don't you decide? Watch the video and see what you think. I have included the lyrics below for reference.

He was on his way home from Candletop
Been two weeks gone and he thought he'd stop
At Web's and have him a drink for he went home to her

Andy Wo-Lo said hello
He said "Hi what's new"
And Wo said "Sit down I got some bad news that's gonna hurt"

Said I'm your best friend and you know that's right
But your young bride ain't home tonight
Since you been gone she's been seeing that Amos boy Seth

Now he got mad and he saw red
Andy said boy don't you lose your head
'Cause to tell you the truth I've been with her myself

That's the night that the lights went out in Georgia
That's the night that they hung an innocent man
Well don't trust your soul to no back woods Southern lawyer
'Cause the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands

Andy got scared and left the bar
Walking on home cause he didn't live far you see

Andy didn't have many friends and he just lost him one
Brother thought his wife must've left town
So he went home and finally found the only thing
Daddy had left him and that was a gun

He went off to Andy's house
Slipping through the back woods quiet as a mouse
Came upon some tracks too small for Andy to make

He looked through the screen at the back porch door
And he saw Andy lying on the floor
In a puddle of blood and he started to shake

The Georgia patrol was making their rounds
So he fired a shot just to flag em down
A big bellied sheriff grabbed his gun and said
"Why'd you do it?"

The judge said guilty on a make-believe trial
Slapped the sheriff on the back with a smile
Said supper's waiting at home and I gotta get to it

That's the night that the lights went out in Georgia
That's the night that they hung an innocent man
Well don't trust your soul to no back woods Southern lawyer
'Cause the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands

Well, they hung my brother before I could say
The tracks he saw while on his way
To Andy's house and back that night were mine

And his cheatin' wife had never left town
That's one body that'll never be found
You see little sister don't miss when she aims her gun

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a bit more Southern Gothic with Ode to Billy Joe. 

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