Thursday, March 10, 2011

Midnight Train To Georgia

When I was a kid 45s were the thing. AM radio played your favorite songs and you went out and bought the records. Your turntable had multiple speeds so you could play everything from 33 rpm long play albums or old 78s. And most of us had that tower device that enabled you to stack a bunch of 45s and play them in succession without having to get up every three minutes and change the tune.

Eventually that all faded out and the industry went to selling albums alone, or cassettes and later compact discs. So if you really liked a certain song, you had to buy the whole album. That's how I came to own Gladys Knight and the Pips Greatest Hits. I really liked a couple songs and didn't know how to get the singles back in the early nineties. Yes, iTunes and digital downloads have changed that back to how it used to be, but for a spell we didn't have the options we have today.

Gladys Knight and the Pips came to national attention through the Motown record label but their biggest hits came after they signed with Buddah Records where Knight got more r-e-s-p-e-c-t from the the label and its producers. (In her autobiography she states that with Motown they were always treated like a second string team, getting the scraps while the best songs went to the Temptations, Diana Ross & the Supremes and Marvin Gaye.)

Midnight Train To Georgia is a wonderfully painful song. Written by Mississippi-born country songwriter Jim Weatherly, Midnight Train captures something big in a very small package. The opening line sets it up. Simple as it is, it says so much with near perfect understatement: "L.A. proved too much for the man."

The woman singing loves this man very much and went across the country with him, hoping to be alongside as he pursued and reached his dreams. But his dreams were large and instead of success he has failed. The reality of his experience is different from his expectations. It is a painful realization. And now, "he's leaving, on a midnight train to Georgia."

He's not a superstar or even a star. He found out the hard way that dreams don't always come true. There's no press agent setting up photo opps for this trip, and no media coverage when he arrives home. It's a bitter pill.

But there is a poignancy in the song. The woman singing it this song has not only shared his pain, but has been given an opportunity to show that she truly loves her man, for better or worse, richer or poorer. He failed, and one gets the impression she had other options open to her, but let them go for something more important to her, being there with him.

For some reason the song resonated with something somewhere inside me. Most of us at one time have known failure, had to step back and re-evaluate the meaning of our choices and our lives. The way Gladys and the Pips sing this one really nails it for me. If you get the chance, give it a listen.

Midnight Train To GeorgiaL.A. proved too much for the man
He couldn't make it, so he's leaving a life he's come to know
He said he's going back to find
What's left of his world
The world he left behind not so long ago

He's leaving
On that midnight train to Georgia
Said he's going back
To find a simpler place and time
I'll be with him
On that midnight train to Georgia
I'd rather live in his world,
Than live without him in mine

He kept dreaming
That some day he'd be a star
But he sure found out the hard way,
That dreams don't always come true
So he pawned all his hopes
And even sold his old car
For a one way ticket back to the life he once knew
Oh yes he did, he said he would

He's leaving
On that midnight train to Georgia
Yeah, said he's going back to find
A simpler place and time
I'm gonna be with him
On that midnight train to Georgia
I'd rather live in his world,
Than live without him in mine

He's leaving
On the midnight train to Georgia
Said he's going back to find
A simpler place and time
I've got to be with him
On that midnight train to Georgia
I'd rather live in his world,
Than live without him in mine

My love, gonna board the midnight train to Georgia


My world, his world, our world, mine and his alone

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