Seeking the song’s hidden meaning
OK, because I am old, I am hip to a lot of music that a lot of you would know nothing about because you aren’t old – or maybe you are, but just aren’t interested, which is unfortunate because you’ll be missing a lot.
And I have a lot of “oldies” CDs, like “The Only Do-Wop Collection You’ll Ever Need,” which is a bit of a stretch, or maybe a flat-out D.C.-style lie, but it’s still pretty good, and on it is “My True Story” by the Jive Five, and it’s a cool song except for one thing:
It makes NO SENSE.
This comes up because I was listening to it the other day (and not for the first time; maybe the 10th) as I was driving back from New Jersey on Route 84 out of New York and into Connecticut, and it was early morning because I left to blow home at 3:30, so it was probably around 7, and I had the disc in and “My True Story” came on. And for whatever reason, maybe I was a bit zonked, I was determined to REALLY, REALLY listen closely to the words and figure out what the heck was going on. Because, as it says in the title, it is a story. Sort of.
And I listened closely, really closely, so closely that when the song was over and I decided to pay attention to the speedometer, I was going 88. In a 2005 Prius. Yikes. Man, I am too old to be doing 88 in anything, but the idea that a Prius can even GO that fast is a little freaky.
I have had this Prius for about two months, purchased – as was our Highlander – from Horseless Carriage in Milford. Both are hybrids, and the Prius gets killer gas mileage and I like it, and it has a killer sound system, which I like even more, so the Jive Five were (was?) coming in great, so it was really easy to concentrate on the song, which I did a little too well, what with 88 mph, right?
So I slowed down and spent a few minutes parsing the lyrics. I really thought about them and I came up with this:
I still don’t get it.
So, of course, I am seeking your help, even if you’ve never heard the song, even if you never heard of the Jive Five, even if you don’t care about the Jive Five or “My True Story,” I KNOW that you care about logic and story craft and in this song, there is no logic and zero story craft, so I am going to repeat here for you the words with the searching hope, possibly vain, that you can figure out what the heck is going on. Here goes:
MY TRUE STORY
Written by Eugene Pitt, Oscar Waltzer, Joe Rene.
Sung by the Jive Five.
“Cry, cry, cry whoa-uh-oh-oh-oh-oh. Cry, cry, cry whoa-uh-oh-oh-oh-oh
“There is a story yeah, that I must tell.
“Of two lovers that I bewail.
“Now they must cry, cry, cry whoa-uh-oh-oh-oh-oh, their blues away.
“(Cry cry cry their blues away).”
“Her name was Sue yeah, his name was Earl.
“His love was Lorraine, she’s a wonderful girl.
“But they must cry, cry, cry whoa-uh-oh-oh-oh-oh, their blues away.
“(Their blues away).
“Love will make you happy, And love will make you cry.
“Love will make the tears fall when your lover says goodbye.
“And then you’ll cry, cry, cry whoa-uh-oh-oh-oh-oh, your blues away.
“(Cry cry cry their blues away).
“This story ends yeah, it was no lie.
“Names have been changed dear, to protect you and I.
“But we must cry, cry, cry whoa-uh-oh-oh-oh-oh
“Our blues away.
“(Cry cry cry), mmm (whoa-uh our blues away).
“We must cry
“(Cry cry cry whoa-uh our blues away).”
And that, gang, is it. First of all, when have you EVER seen, or heard, the word “bewail” in a song? Or anywhere? Go ahead, use it it a sentence. See? And, of course, I know it should be “whom I bewail,” and I know, too, that it should be “to protect you and me,” but hey, it was 1959, or thereabouts …
Anyway, here’s what we apparently have, as far as I can figure: Earl is in love with Lorraine (“His love was Lorraine …”). That’s pretty clear. Sue is in love with … I THINK Earl. That seems to be the thread here. I suppose she could have been in love with Lorraine, but given when the song was written, that seems unlikely. Maybe in a remake …
And all three of them will, or must, cry their blues away. As if that works, but that’s another story.
So, OK, they’re all crying and apparently that’s it. That’s all they do. They cry. But what’s the denouemont here? Does Earl stay with Lorraine? Does he go with Sue? Is he having an affair with Sue even though his love is Lorraine? Does Lorraine suspect? Does Sue mind being the other woman?
How the heck does this “story” end? The song says “This story ends …” but where? When? How?
You see why I’m suddenly doing 88 mph? In a Prius? Don’t try this at home, kids, because 88 mph in anything is STUPID, especially when your concentration is on a song that MAKES NO LOGICAL SENSE.
Anyway, if any of you can figure out “My True Story,” please let me know. I’ll keep “The Only Do-Wop Collection You’ll Ever Need” in my Prius (named, by the way, J. Prius for my late brother, Jeff, to whom I always referred by his initials, J.P. Get it?) and if you see me, flag me down and I’ll pop it in.
Earl, Sue, Lorraine.
And it’s a true story.
Yeah, and I’m bewailing my inability to figure it out.
Mike Cleveland is former editor of The Cabinet.