This song was a Top 40 hit for Parton in 1970. She sings from the point of view of a woman “crazy with jealousy” who’s been wrongfully institutionalized by the guy she loves…because he wants to see someone else. You know what else is crazy? Dolly’s outfit in the video below.
Johnny Cash wrote this song for Porter Wagoner, who recorded a stunning version 25 years later on his final album, Wagonmaster. The lyrics—about an institution outside of Nashville that both Cash and Porter spent time in—paint pictures of patients that include a man who thinks he’s Hank Williams, a “superstar’s ex-drummer,” and a singer-songwriter who repeatedly attempts suicide. Whether you’re listening to Wagoner’s version or The Highwaymen, you’re hearing a damn good song.
Knowing Van Zandt’s life story makes this song even more heartwrenching and horrifying. From To Live’s To Fly: The Ballad of the Late, Great Townes Van Zandt, written by John Kruth:
“[Townes'] memory had been permanently fogged by a series of electric-and insulin-shock treatments he received after being diagnosed as a manic depressive with schizophrenic tendencies in the wake of a nervous breakdown suffered during his sophomore year of college…Van Zandt recalled his parents coming to visit him and the doctor having to reintroduce his mother to him as ‘the one with the long hair.'”
2. “I Don’t Remember Loving You” – John Conlee
This song, penned by Harlan Howard and Bobby Braddock, went to #10 in 1982. In my opinion, Conlee’s never sounded better, especially when he sings “If you’ll hand me my crayons I’ll be glad to take your name/In case I run across the guy you knew/But I don’t remember loving you.”
Nobody sings a haunting song quite like Wagoner. This one’ll send chills down your spine.
Juli Thanki is the editor of Engine 145 and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Bluegrass Unlimited, and M Music & Musicians Magazine. In 2011 she received the International Bluegrass Music Association Print Media Person of the Year award.