“Rachel’s Song” by James McMurtry
In high school, I learned that song lyrics didn’t have to be autobiographical. They could be in the voice of someone else—character studies—dramatic monologues: Squeeze’s “Cool for Cats,” Joe Jackson’s “I’m the Man,” Bowie’s entire oeuvre. These stoked the fire of my inner theater geek/drama queen. I became a writer who uses other people’s voices to take me to far more interesting places—maybe even more truthful—than my own could. Like his dad, Larry, James McMurtry knows how to create a character. He often writes in the voices of women—seriously sad women: the rich, isolated college girl in “Iolanthe,” the battered convenience store worker in “The Lights of Cheyenne.” Rachel of “Rachel’s Song” is one of the saddest women I’ve ever heard. Yet she’s admirably defiant. “If anyone can claim they’re alright, so can I.”
-Jennifer L. Knox
Jennifer L. Knox‘s next book of poems, Days of Shame and Failure, is forthcoming from Bloof Books in 2015. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review and four times in the Best American Poetry series. She can be found online at http://www.jenniferlknox.com.
Questions, compliments, (hopefully not) complaints?
Contact Jackie Clark: jackie [at] coldfrontmag [dot] com.
See all Songs of the Week here.
Follow Song of the Week on Twitter: @nohelpforthat