He was old. The songs he sang were older than he was, but not by much. His voice wasn’t what it was. It had once been rangy and wild. He had once been rangy and wild. Now he sang in a hushed, reedy whisper. His voice was bloodied, but his head was unbowed. He was tall still. Close to gaunt. His white hair was thinner than it had been. Everything about him was. The curls were gone. They would have called them “trademark curls,” if they had talked that way back when. But the curls were no more, and straight white hair streamed down to his shoulders. He held his head erect.
He sang of rambling and running and rebellion. But he was a sedate old man. The only sentiment that made much sense was regret. His songs had new meaning in his old age. He sang songs he’d sung for four or five decades. But the songs weren’t the same. His voice didn’t sound the same. But that wasn’t all.
The folksinger sang about drinking too much. Chasing too many bad women, leaving too many good ones behind. He sang about doing what he wanted. He sang about not being able to stop doing what he wanted. All these songs had been heard on scratchy vinyl for decades. But they were new. He wasn’t singing about a night of drinking too much any more. He was singing about a life of drinking too much.
He’d drank too much, bedded too many women, destroyed his liver, his voice and God knows what else. But he was still singing. His concert was less a celebration than an arraignment. He wasn’t what he was. He wanted us all to know. Each song indicted those responsible. Some overtly, as he lamented hard living and broken relationships. Others implicitly, as his staccato mumbles lurched through songs written for his once-impressive vocal range.
But each song blamed those responsible. He wanted us to know who the guilty parties were. So each song blamed each bottle of whiskey. Every whore. And himself.