Song Of The Day 10/20/2014: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton - "The Party"



Cautionary Tales: Geez. Yesterday I refused to make jokes about heroin addiction and promised I'd make jokes soon. Then what do I give myself for Song Of The Day today? Children dying in a fire. How's a brother gonna be Thurber-esque about that? That's my worst nightmare. (Second worst: Faulty spark plugs. Now you know.)

Country death songs are the kind of tunes that could really screw you up for life. I've featured Jack Kittel's "Psycho" here before, and still cringe at the senseless violent spree of The Louvin Brothers' "Knoxville Girl." But those were about murderers; "The Party" is about an accidental death somehow pinned on parental neglect. The parents really don't do that much wrong: They just go to a party. Yeah, there's drinking and, as Porter somberly castigates, "dirty jokes." There's the possibility that they'll miss church the next day, which for some strange reason is something their kids really want to do. When I was a kid, let's just say church was not the highlight of my weekend. I don't even think I pretended that it was.

But really, what more could this couple have done? They responsibly hired a babysitter, who barely gets mentioned in the middle of the parents' massive guilt. From what I get of this account, it's the babysitter who probably bears the brunt of the culpability here. A fire started on her watch and she didn't have time to get the children to safety? Did she fall asleep? Was the fire caused by her own spontaneous combustion? I don't want to point fingers in the chaos of this unspeakable tragedy, but if I did I'd lay it on the babysitter and not so much the drunken parents. I realize in cultures other than my own retribution from God over ecclesiastical sins of omission are as common as tooth decay, but I feel we in Yankeeland have made some real advances in risk management. So "The Party" sounds like a relic these days. Creepy, deeply unsettling and piercingly effective, but a relic still.

I've just looked ahead and see that we have a '60s teenage death song tomorrow, which is great. I'm sure I'll have loads of one-liners with that one.
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