It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
“The Green Fields of the Mind,” A. Bartlett Giamatti
Hope is on my mind tonight. Isn’t that sad? Nothing, save love, is worse than hope. Love at least can be requited, where hope always waits for the telephone to ring. I wait, not so much for a telephone to ring though, but for a bat to swing. I can’t bear to speak of it yet, it’s new again, and it’s too early to be anything except uneasy.
Let’s go back to 1963 instead. That’s the year the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series over the two-time defending champions New York Yankees. Hope. That’s the series Randle McMurphy begged Nurse Ratched to watch. Hope.
That’s the year a young Willie Nelson, still twelve years away from his first No. 1 hit, recorded a classic sounding Nelson piece called I Hope So.
The song is credited to his second wife Shirley Collie, but as talented as she was, the song just has too many tell tale signs to be anyone’s but Nelson’s song. Listen to the stuttered rhythm, the pauses, the odd twists of lyric. Nashville was trying so hard to polish itself in 1963 and found that often it was lipstick on a pig. Willie on the other hand, seemed to do it all with ease. Had country music embraced him as a performer a decade earlier, rather than just a songwriter, who knows how the whole countrypolitan thing might have turned out. It might have even been good.
This record seems to be one of Willie’s classic post Sinatra moments. I like to imagine (hope) that songs like this were penned at 3 am after spinning In the Wee Small Hours, with a glass of whiskey, neat, sitting on the corner of napkin the lyrics were being written on. It’s a great loser song as the guy tries to hope for his lost love’s happiness, but leaves open the door that he’s still waiting, hoping, she’ll come back to him. That does sometimes happen of course, but it’s never the tonic for the gin.
Here it is 11:30 pm on an already .500 season and I’m not listening to Frank, I’m listening to Willie. And like the loser in the song I’m hoping, too. I’m always hoping.
Willie Nelson, I Hope So