When Paisley was in Chicago on Thursday (Feb. 5), I had a chance to ask him how he was doing since Dickens passed.
“We all thought he was gonna live forever,” Paisley said. “I mean, he lived 94 years, so I don’t know how much more we could’ve asked of him.”
He told me about Dickens’ private funeral service and about what the preacher told Dickens’ close friends and family.
“Our preacher Mike Glenn said, ‘All of you here today should be thinking about your own funeral. Because if you live your life like you’re planning that show, your last show, then that’s a pretty good way to live,’” he recalls him saying.
Paisley’s relationship with Dickens reminded him of his bond with his own grandfather, who died at age 65.
“I remember as a kid having a sense that he wouldn’t be around that long. He ate fried chicken and smoked cigarettes, and he was one of those guys who just looked like a grandpa every day: he was bald, and he wore glasses and slacks and Velcro tennis shoes. So when I got to Nashville and befriended Jimmy, I had that same feeling, that there was no way he had more than a decade left,” Paisley related.
But because Dickens defied the odds and made it through the years that Paisley said he thought he was going to lose him, he’s a beacon of hope for a life well-lived. And what Dickens leaves behind is inspiring to Paisley.
“It’s sort of like you wanna cover this and do that, and you’d love to be remembered for this or remembered for that,” he said. But he’s hoping his music can and will be his own legacy. And even though Paisley admits his sound has evolved since his 1999 debut single “Who Needs Pictures” was released 16 years ago this month, he maintains, “I always sound like me.”
“And I’m always conscious about having one foot on the Opry stage,” Paisley said, “no matter where the other foot happens to be.”