America is such a welcoming country that we are now hosting concurrent epidemics – COVID-19 and cabin fever. History will tell which was the more emotionally disruptive. Fortunately, there are effective remedies for surviving the forced confinement these plagues have thrust upon us, like reading food labels, drinking heavily, upbraiding our spouses and children, exercising by clenching and unclenching our fists, grooming our goldfish, cutting steps into the walls to facilitate climbing them, or just sitting around and listening to classic country songs about forced confinement. Like these:
“Another Place, Another Time”
(Jerry Lee Lewis, 1968)
Even though it was a comeback single for Jerry Lee Lewis (pictured above), last call is the death knell for the chronically lonely, almost like being banished from Eden. “Chairs are stacked all over tables, it’s closing time they say/I could wait right here forever if they’d only let me stay/Anywhere would be much better than that lonely room of mine/with a sleepless night awaiting for another place another time.”
“Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall”
(Elvis Presley, 1976)
A master at wordplay, songwriter Larry Gatlin tells the whole story in that first verse: “I told her to leave me alone/That’s what she’s done, just what she’s done/And a house built for two ain’t a home/when it’s lived in by one, one lonely one.” Elvis Presley recorded his 1976 version inside Graceland mansion.
“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”
(Willie Nelson, 1978)
This traditional pop gem from Nelson’s glorious Stardust album is a lyrical prescription for social distancing. “Thought I’d visit the club/got as far as the door/They’d have asked me about you/Don’t get around much anymore.”
“Folsom Prison Blues”
(Johnny Cash, 1956)
So you think you’ve got it tough there in the condo with just Netflix and the delivery guy to keep you company? Hell, you need some perspective. “I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when,” Cash moans. “I’m stuck in Folsom Prison, and time keeps dragging on.” We’ve all been in conversations like that. Right?
(Jim Reeves, 1957)
His sweetheart is “out where the bright lights are glowing” while he’s home studying the architecture. “Four walls to hear me/four walls to see/Four walls too near me/closing in on me.” At this point, he’s either past talking to the walls or ready to start.
“Ghost in This House”
(Shenandoah, 1990; Alison Krauss, 1999)
Here we have a veritable catalog of depressive symptoms brought on by the loss of a love so vital that it saps away life itself. “I don’t pick up the mail, I don’t pick up the phone/I don’t answer the door, I’d just as soon be alone/I don’t keep this place up, I just keep the lights down/I don’t live in these rooms/I just rattle around.” Paint with the weight of lead.
“The Grand Tour”
(George Jones, 1974)
She’s gone and he wanders about their broken home, perhaps showing it to a potential buyer and stepping on memories that explode like landmines. “There’s her rings, all her things/and her clothes are in the closet/like she left them when she tore my world apart/As you leave you’ll see the nursery/Oh, she left me without mercy/taking nothing but our baby and my heart.” Now that’s cold.
(Faron Young, 1961)
You know that even your dog has deserted you when you’re reduced to talking to the walls. And you’re really a head case when you expect them to answer. “Hello walls, how’d things go for you today?/Don’t you miss her, since she up and walked away.” If the walls won’t talk, there’s always the ceiling.
“I Walk Alone”
(Marty Robbins, 1968)
The singer promises not only to walk the paths he and his lover have trod before but also to walk the straight and narrow. “I walk alone where once we wandered/It seems so strange that you are gone/Till you return, I’ll stay the same, dear/I’ll still be true and walk alone.” A No. 1 hit for Robbins, it’s also been recorded by Eddy Arnold, Don Gibson, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Ernest Tubb, and Kitty Wells.
“I’ll Break Out Again Tonight”
(Merle Haggard, 1974)
He’s in prison, but he’s got a plan. “These walls and bars can’t hold a dreamin’ man/So I’ll be home to tuck the babies in/They can chain my body, but not my mind/and I’ll break out again tonight.” This song first surfaced on the album Haggard named for his melancholy Christmas classic, “If We Make It Through December.”
(Hawkshaw Hawkins, 1963)
The problem: “Had our number changed today, although I hated to/But each time the phone would ring/they’d want to speak to you/And it hurts to tell them you’re not here with me.” The solution: Get a new number that’s easy for the departed lover to remember should she ever want to return: “Just call Lonesome 7-7203.” This was Hawkins only No. 1. It charted the same week he was killed in the plane crash that also took Patsy Cline’s life.
“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”
(Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, 1969)
Being bedridden when your lady’s stepping out on you has gotta hurt. “She’s leaving now ’cause I just heard the slamming of the door/the way I know I’ve heard it slam one hundred times before/and if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground/Oh, Ruby, don’t take your love to town.” Probably a little late for marriage counseling.
“Sleeping Single in a Double Bed”
(Barbara Mandrell, 1978)
There are degrees of loneliness and being bedroom lonely is solitude in the first degree. “I’d pour me a drink, but I’d only be sorry/’cause drinking doubles alone don’t make it a party.” Well, that depends on how many doubles you drink. A few more might make it a festival.
“Walkin’ After Midnight”
(Patsy Cline, 1957)
It’s bleak and lonely out there at this time of night. But the prospect that your old lover might be on the same path looking for you is enough to keep you going, as Patsy Cline observes in her first-ever charting single.