Happy birthday to Mac Davis, who turns 68 today. Who the hell is Mac Davis? Well, in addition to writing songs made famous by Elvis Presley like "In the Ghetto" and "Don't Cry Daddy," Davis is well known for writing my favorite ramblin' relationship-phobe song, "Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me." In honor of Mac's special day, and in honor of relationship-phobes the world 'round, my top ten "Baby, don't mind me, I'm just a ramblin' man!" songs.
Mac Davis - "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me"
One of many overtly sexual songs to come out of pop country in the 70s and 80s, Davis explains in a lovely tenor that this relationship is only about the sex. Notable lyric: Girl don't let your life get tangled up in mine, 'cause I'll just leave you I can't take no clinging vine.
Don Williams - "Rake and Ramblin' Man"
When I first heard this song on the radio, my jaw dropped. Oh, the brutal honesty! Turns out it's not the protagonist Williams asking his lover "Do I look like a Daddy to you?" but rather, the protagonist's friend bemoaning the fact that he's knocked up his girl. Notable lyric: Now she's feelin' sick in the mornin's, she can't get into her jeans. I spent my last ten dollars, bought her a second hand ring.
Marshall Tucker Band - "Heard It in a Love Song"
First item to note: It's heard it in a love song, not pretty little love song. Now that that's out of the way - in this flute heavy country rock hit, vocalist Doug Gray sings that while he loves his lady, again, he's a ramblin' man! Where's his duffel bag? He's got to head on down the road, and he don't need no woman taggin' along. Notable lyric: I ain't never been with a woman long enough for my boots to get old. We've been together so long now they both need resoled.
Hank Williams - "Ramblin' Man"
In this hit, Williams loves his lady (noticing a pattern here?), but ever'time he hears a train he's gotta, you know, "head on down the line" (noticing a pattern here?). Notable lyric: I love you baby, but you gotta understand, when the lord made me he made a ramblin' man.
The Allman Brothers Band - "Ramblin' Man"
Here, the Allman Brothers Band explore the same theme as the Williams tune of the same name, but in so doing explore their roots as ramblin' men. This is called progress - accepting that you have a problem, but then discovering why; in other words, blaming your father. Notable lyric: My father was a gambler down in Georgia, he wound up on the wrong end of a gun. And I was born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus, rolling down highway forty-one.
Waylon Jennings - "Waymore's Blues"
A simple tune, but in my opinion one of Waylon's best. Like Hank, Mac and the rest, Waylon is a ramblin' man, but the progress we see happening here is a bit of self-reflection. Check out the look he gives his wife Jessi Colter when he mentions he wants to love every woman he sees, and note that a few years later, he had a son both with her (Shooter Jennings) and with another woman, in the very same year. Awkward! Notable lyric: Well I got a good woman, what's the matter with me? What makes me wanna love every woman I see. I was triflin' when I met her now I'm triflin' again, and every woman I see looks like the place I came in. ("Poetic license," he says.)
Rosanne Cash - "Seven Year Ache"
In this crossover heartbreaker, Johnny's daughter turns a seven year itch into a seven year ache. Notable lyric: The girls in the bars thinking, "Who is this guy?" But they don't think nothing when they're telling you lies. You look so careless when they're shooting that bull. Don't you know heartaches are heroes when their pockets are full.
Bobby Bare - "When Am I Ever Gonna Settle Down"
Ramblin' gets old after a while. And frankly, it just looks sad on an old man. You know the type - he smells like whiskey and buys you drinks in the bar. He's got kids your age in at least three states. Someday, you gotta grow up and ask this question. Notable lyric: Well I loved me a Georgia peach but she turned out wrong. She didn't move me so I moved on. For a young man I guess I've been around, but when am I ever gonna settle down?
Flatt & Scruggs (performed here by Goldrush Bluegrass Band) - "I'm Gonna Settle Down"
Sadly, women have a strong tendency to take a ramblin' man back, at least, Flatt & Scruggs are hopeful that will be the case after they've been away. Notable lyric: When I get back to her my ramblin' days are o'er. We'll build a little cottage on the hill. We'll think of days gone by sweetheart just you and I and now we'll live so happy evermore.
Steve Earle - "Steve's Last Ramble"
Steve Earle's done got fed up with ramblin', too. Maybe that's why he takes his sixth wife, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, on the road with him. Notable lyric: I'm thinkin' 'bout givin' up this ramblin' round, and hangin' up my highway shoes. Lately when I walk they make a hollow sound and they carry me away from you. Every night I lay my body down, my empty arms just leave me blue. So I'm thinkin' 'bout givin' up this ramblin' 'round and find my way back home to you.
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