10 Reasons “I Don’t Want to See You Again” Is One of the Great Kiss-Off Songs

I was happy to see Marty Brown‘s recording of “I Don’t Want to See You Again” is now on YouTube. Regular readers know Chimesfreedom is a fan of Marty Brown’s music, and this song is certainly in my top ten Marty Brown songs and one of my favorite songs of all time. “I Don’t Want to See You Again” appears on Brown’s sophomore album from 1993, Wild Kentucky Skies. The album is full of songs written by Brown that I love, but “I Don’t Want to See You” is one of only two songs on the album not written by Brown. It is easy to see why he chose this song written by Jackson Leap, as it suits his voice perfectly. Why do I love the song so much? Well, here are ten reasons.

1. The opening line tells you everything you need to know about the story: “Don’t look so surprised,/ I told you I’d say goodbye/ if you couldn’t just make up your mind.” Perfect.

2. In true empowering kiss-off fashion, the singer wants true love but realizes that the object of his song cannot give him the love he wants and deserves.

3. The singer’s lover apparently has not been a good one, but she is still surprised by the news.

4. The singer not only says goodbye, but he does not want to see or feel his lover again, which is the best way to end a bad relationship.

5. The singer knows that his love will regret losing him (“When your teardrops finally come. . . “).

6. The singer wants it all.

7. The great country guitar riff playing throughout the song.

8. Marty Brown yells “Babeeeee” and then “Yeeeeeeeeah” near the end. The latter is a scream of freedom.

9. Although there is an underlying sadness of two lovers parting ways, the song sounds joyous, capturing the hope for the future.

10. Marty Brown sings it.

What is your favorite kiss-off song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Cowboy Jack Clement: “I Guess Things Happen That Way”

    Cowboy Jack Clement passed away this week in Nashville from cancer at the age of 82. The singer, producer, and songwriter had a long career with connections to some important figures in music history. Early in his career, Cowboy Jack Clement worked as a producer and engineer for Sam Phillips at Sun Records, helping discover Jerry Lee Lewis and recording him on such songs as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” He wrote Johnny Cash’s “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” and produced the singer’s recording of “Ring of Fire.” He also produced several U2 performances in 1987 for their Rattle & Hum album. And he continued producing music until his death, with his most recent work being on Cathy Maguire‘s upcoming 2014 album.

    In 2005, a movie called Shakespeare Was a Big George Jones Fan focused on Clement’s career using his home movies. He had been in the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame since 1973, and he was going to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame later this year.

    Among all of Clement’s accomplishments, the one that stands out for me is that he wrote the song, “I Guess Things Happen That Way.” The song was a hit for Johnny Cash in 1958. Almost four decades later, the song appeared on the excellent soundtrack to the underrated Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner movie, A Perfect World (1993). Here is Cash’s original version of the song. (A live 1994 version is also on YouTube, but I prefer the original recording with the background singers the 1950s slapback sound.)

    “I Guess Things Happen That Way” is one of the great heartbreak songs. In the song, the singer tells the listener about missing his lost love: “You ask me if I’ll miss her kisses./I guess I will, everyday.” He does not know if he will find another love (“I don’t know. I can’t say.).

    But what is great about the song is that amid the pain, the singer and the upbeat music — including the background ba-doo-pa-doo’s — contemplate life getting better: “You ask me if I’ll get along./I guess I will, someway.” And the wonderful refrain reminds all of the heartbroken that they are not alone, “I don’t like it but I guess things happen that way.” It is one of the most perfect songs about the contradictory agony and hope that comes from losing a love.

    Johnny Cash later recorded the song with Bob Dylan in 1969 while Dylan was making Nashville Skyline. “I Guess Things Happen That Way” did not end up on the album but you may listen to their version below. (Thanks to Michael Gray for pointing me to the Dylan-Cash collaboration.)

    Clement originally wrote “I Guess Things Happen That Way” from a man’s point of view: “Heaven help me be a man / and have the strength to stand alone.” But Emmylou Harris shows that the song is more universal by adding a few tweaks (“Heaven help me to be strong”) in this performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

    The song also may be performed as a man-woman duet, as shown by Kris Kristofferson and Norah Jones at a Johnny Cash tribute concert. The performance works equally well here as a tribute to Cowboy Jack Clement.

    Finally, here is a recent Clement performance of “Guess Things Happen That Way.” Paul Smith of Boundary Road accompanies Clement at the The Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa in Nashville, Tennessee.

    We are sad at the passing of Cowboy Jack Clement. But we are thankful for the work he created during his long career giving us a little extra joy and comfort for our short time here on earth. I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way.

    What is your favorite Cowboy Jack Clement song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Heartbreak Recovery Songs: Getting Past Anger and Suffering

    There are numerous songs about being in love.  And there are almost as many songs about being hurt or angry at the end of a relationship, like No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak,” Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” Adele’s “Someone Like You,” Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River,” and Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” There are also songs about leaving a loved one, like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic “Free Bird” and Dolly Parton’s and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” But few songs focus on the personal healing process when the post-relationship hurt and anger start to drift away. There are some such songs, and artists like Willy Porter and the Cowboy Junkies have addressed the slow process of recovery after a relationship’s end.

    Heartbreak Recovery & Heartbreak

    There are a number of reasons why few songs capture this post-relationship self-discovery state.  That stage is not as exciting as love or anger, and not everyone goes through it. One may skip or block out that stage or maybe never fully reach that level of forgiveness necessary to be at peace.

    But the post-relationship self-discovery stage is a wonderful step in one’s growth.  It is just as important as other emotions because this step is about coming to terms with finding oneself as someone no longer defined by the former love/anger/hate.

    A few popular songs come close to addressing this relationship stage without fully addressing it. For example, Kelly Clarkson has made her career on relationship ending songs like “Don’t Waste Your Time.”  But her pop songs often focus on the anger.

    Similarly, some of the lyrics of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” seem to be about this stage (“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing / Because I, I built my life around you”).  But Stevie Nicks has explained the song is more about career and life directions. In “Missing You,” John Waite protests that he does not miss his love, but it is clear that the singer is still heartbroken and has a ways to go.

    A major difference between the heartbreak recovery songs and heartbreak songs is the focus of the song. The songs written about the immediate end of a relationship focus on the other person, often having “you” in their title (“Since You’ve Been Gone,” etc.). The songs about healing and recovery are more about the singer, i.e., “I” or “me.”

    “I’m Alive”

    Jackson Browne captures this healing process in “I’m Alive.” The song appeared on his 1993 break-up album of the same name that was released after the end of a relationship.

    Browne’s “I’m Alive” only covers the start of the transition from anger and hurt to the recognition of being alive (“I’m gonna have to block it out somehow to survive / ’cause those dreams are dead / And I’m alive.” It is one of my favorite Jackson Browne songs.

    “Angry Words”

    Two other songs go even deeper into end-of-relationship healing, including one by Willy Porter, a singer-songwriter from Wisconsin. Willy Porter’s “Angry Words,” from Dog-Eared Dream (1994), does an excellent job of capturing that feeling of relief where, after a relationship has ended, one wakes up one morning realizing life goes on.

    I have cursed your name a thousand times or more;
    Your photograph lies deep at the bottom of my drawer;
    But when I looked at it this morning,
    I had no angry words to say, no angry words to say.

    “Angry Words” has similarities to Gloria Gaynor’s classic “I Will Survive” and Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.” But whereas Gaynor’s and John’s songs are about empowerment and surviving after a bad relationship, Porter’s song is about getting to that stage. Porter is not trying to prove anything to his lost love or convince himself he is fine.  He is sorting through who he is and who he is going to be.

    In “Angry Words,” the singer refers to “The coffee maker that you gave me it finally broke down.” The coffee maker reference shows time has passed while also symbolizing that the singer has reached a stage of breaking where he is building himself again: “I learned a little ’bout forgiveness, learned a little ’bout sin/ A little ’bout the soul of a man living within this skin.”

    And that is what the stage of forgiveness is all about: learning about yourself and not letting the angry words dictate who you are.

    “Sun Comes Up”

    A song with a similar theme from the woman’s point of view is “Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning” by the Cowboy Junkies with lead singer Margo Timmins. “Sun Comes Up” is a highlight from the band’s 1990 The Caution Horses album.

    The singer in “Sun Comes Up” is not quite at the stage as the singer in Willy Porter’s “Angry Words.” But she struggles to find peace.

    The singer in “Sun Comes Up” meets her friend Jen for lunch.  She sees that her friend has been battered by a boyfriend or husband, so she remembers there are worse things than loneliness.

    The singer then stops herself from calling her former lover.  She reminds herself, “And anyways I’d rather listen to Coltrane / Than go through all that shit again.”

    At the end, the singer is still struggling, but she realizes there are some simple benefits to being on your own, even if you miss the person you once loved.

    Yeah, sure I’ll admit there are times when I miss you,
    Especially like now when I need someone to hold me;
    But there are some things that can never be forgiven;
    And I just gotta tell you,
    That I kinda like this extra few feet in my bed.

    I love the line about the extra few feet in bed, because it is such a small thing.  But the first step toward happiness is appreciating the small things.

    After the song ends, I imagine some more time will pass, her coffee maker will break down, and she will end up with no angry words. And then, like the singer in “Angry Words,” she will not be “afraid of a new love that could be starting.”

    The Power of Music

    You know that the sophisticated and mature people in these songs will be okay, even as the songs provide insight to the listener too. On YouTube under one of the live videos of “Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning,” someone confessed, “There were at least 5 years of my life that I would not have survived if it weren’t for this song.”

    It is amazing what music can do for us, and I wish more songwriters would explore this stage of love. But we are lucky to have so many songs covering the stages of love. For all the lovers, the broken-hearted, and the healing hearts, may you find your song.

    Check out a live version of the Cowboy Junkies’ “Sun Comes Up,” and an additional solo live version of Willy Porter’s “Angry Words” with some great guitar work. Can you think of any other songs fit this category of heartbreak recovery songs and coming to peace about lost love? Leave a comment.

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