Are you listening, Washington?

I rarely listen to music. Too many memories and associations. Too much of it makes me cry.

I listen to country music even less. It just isn’t “my genre.” Or at least that’s what I’ve always said. And yet there are country artists (eg, Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers) I’ve been very fond of, and particular songs (eg, “I’m Already There,” “The Impossible,” “I Hope You Dance”) that hit so close to home I can’t listen to them.

This morning I happened to see Ronnie Dunn on TV. I’d never heard of him. But the song he sang, “Cost of Livin’,” describes with simple eloquence what so many Americans are going through these days. I read somewhere that the song as originally written included the line “two dollars and change at the pump.” Dunn updated it to “three dollars” before releasing the song, and in this recording he says “four dollars.” In another reflection of the times, like the ongoing plight of so many, the song has no ending.

Maybe this song will get through to Washington. Nothing else has.

Cost of Livin’

Everything to know about me
Is written on this page
The number you can reach me
My social and my age
Yes I served in the army
It’s where I learned to shoot
Eighteen months in the desert
Pourin’ sand out of my boots
No I’ve never been convicted of a crime
I could start this job at any time.

I got a strong back
Steel toes
I rarely call in sick
A good truck
What I don’t know
I catch on real quick
I work weekends
If I have to
Nights and holidays
Give you 40
And then some
Whatever it takes
Three dollars and change at the pump
Cost of livin’s high and goin’ up.

I put Robert down as a reference
He’s known me all my life
We attend the same church
He introduced me to my wife
Gave my last job everything
Before it headed south
Took the shoes off of my children’s feet
The food out of their mouths
Yesterday my folks offered to help
But they’re barely getting by themselves

I got a strong back
Steel toes
I rarely call in sick
A good truck
What I don’t know
I catch on real quick
I work weekends
If I have to
Nights and holidays
Give you 40
And then some
Whatever it takes
Three dollars and change at the pump
Cost of livin’s high and goin’ up.

I’m sure a hundred others have applied
Rumor has it you’re only takin’ five

I got a strong back
Steel toes
I’m handy with a wrench
There’s nothing I can’t drive
Nothing I can’t fix
I work sun-up to sun-down
Ain’t too proud to sweep the floors
Bank has started calling
And the wolves are at my door
Three dollars and change at the pump
Cost of livin’s high and goin’ up.

— Phillip Coleman and Ronnie Dunn

6 comments

  1. Like you, Pied, I don’t listen to a lot of country music like some do, but I do admire the exceptional work, like for example Garth Brooks’, “The Dance”, and now this one. Such people are IMHO out modern poets. And I like that Brooks enunciation is so clear that I can understand it!

    Thanks for finding this gem! It is out-damn-standing!

    1. Modern poets. Absolutely. And I hadn’t thought about it before, but you’re right, they do enunciate — more often than not in deep, mellow voices that are easy on the ears (mine, anyway). They sound like the heartland.

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