What becomes of country singers when their glory days are but a distant memory? The narrative offered by Jeff Bridges tells the tale of a decline into and subsequent ascent from alcoholism paired with a fat songwriting check that, because you're such a good guy, you end up signing over to someone else's baby. You know, Jeff Bridges - a nice guy. Gwyneth Paltrow's narrative involves a successful comeback - but one tangled in romantic complications, duh!
But that's the movies.[jump]
As younger stars with tighter jeans, pointier boots and bigger hairpieces take the stage, how do old horses fade away with grace, dignity, and above all, with the acceptance that it sure as hell beats burning out, seeing as how it usually involves growing old, spending weekend afternoons bidding on previously loved tool sets and crocheted thingamajigs at country estate sales, dipping one's toes in warm ponds while listlessly fishing for nothing much at all, and wiling away the hours watching the ladies of Lawrence Welk's show blowing tiny bubbles?
Sounds nice. But then, there's Faron Young, poor Faron Young. Reportedly in declining health, suffering from emphysema and despondent over feelings that Nashville had turned its back on him, on this day in 1996 Faron Young turned a ten-gauge shotgun on himself, dying the next day at the age of 64.
I guess that's as depressing as This Day in Histories come. Sorry. But hey, now we have an excuse to learn all about Faron Young!
1. His Sweehearts or Strangers album cover is one of my favorite album covers of all time, and now it can be yours too! So bright and cheery, full of hope for country music, embellished and fringed country shirts and country neckerchiefs. I would be sad, too, if I witnessed firsthand country's descent from all this into the color-blocked shirts and un-kerchiefed necks of the 80s and 90s. Bonus: Young's rendition of "You Are My Sunshine."
2. Picking up where Hank Williams left off, Young became one of the best-known honk tonk singers of his time and turned this renown into a successful film career, referred to alternately as the Hillbilly Heartthrob and the Singing Sheriff. That's adorable.
3. Young made headlines in 1972 when he was charged with assault for spanking a girl in the audience at a Clarksburg, West Virginia concert after she spat on him.
4. A young Young recorded his first hit, "Goin' Steady," just before being drafted into the Army to serve in the Korean War. It peaked at Number Two while he was in basic training, at which point he was reassigned to the US Army Band, replacing Eddie Fisher on tours and becoming the band's first country music singer. He was discharged in November 1954, and shortly thereafter his song "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')" was positioned at the top of the charts.
5. There was a time when Willie Nelson wasn't taken seriously by the Nashville establishment. Believe it. (Note, it had more to do with his unconventional and now signature style than with his recreational drug habits.) Faron Young was one of the first artists to record a Willie Nelson song, taking "Hello Walls" to Number One in 1961.
6. Remember Frieda, the little curly-haired girl? Charles Schulz was a big fan, and named Frieda's cat Faron, after the country singer.
Hopefully Faron can rest a little easier knowing he's earned himself a new fan or two, on this day in history.