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A Tear in the Chardonnay

Pauline Nevins December 21-22, 2019 - Auburn Journal

Pauline Nevins December 21-22, 2019 Auburn Journal



"Three chords and the truth," said Harlan Howard, the late country music songwriter, “is all you need to write a country song.”
Country music fans will recognize the quote. I heard it for the first time while glued to the telly recently watching "Country Music," the historical documentary created by the brilliant filmmaker, Ken Burns.

I was not a country music fan. The male singers sounded miserable — drinking and misbehaving. The female singers either sang about putting up with this nonsense or plotting to put the guy out of his misery. I proudly turned my nose up at the genre. Until one night.

The year was 2008. I was curled up on the couch, a glass of wine in hand, watching the Kennedy Center Honors, a celebration of artists who made significant contributions to American culture. The Bush couple were in attendance that evening, a tradition for a sitting president and his wife. Laura Bush looked different that night. And it wasn’t just the First Lady’s dress — a shimmering burgundy gown with a surprising thigh-high slit. Mrs. Bush was personal and funny. She stood in the middle of the stage looking up to the balcony at two Georges — her own George, and one of the evening’s honorees, singer George Jones.

“When I was still in school,” Mrs. Bush began, “my friends and I must have put a 1,000 quarters in the jukebox listening to George Jones belting out ‘The Race is On,’ over, and over, and over. And,” she went on, "when Frank Sinatra paid his tribute he went as far as he could when he said, 'George Jones is the second-best singer in America.'" The audience roared.

And then, as I was taking a sip of my wine, the first few cords of George Jones’ biggest hit-filled my living room — "He said I’ll love you ‘til I die …” 
The screen blurred. A tear plopped into my Chardonnay. I was glad I was alone. Then I did what all British-born people are taught to do. I blew my nose and pulled myself together.


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