This letter has been almost two decades in the making. I have been composing a fan letter to you in my head since the first time I heard you play in College Station, Texas in 1995. I got your playlist from that show from Drew Clausen; it is among my most treasured items. I also have a glass that you and Julia Roberts (more on her later) drank from when you had lunch at the Grapevine, an fine-dining (by college town standards) establishment where I was employed at the EXACT same time you were dining there. In fact, I had a shift that started about 2 hours AFTER you and Jules left (after eating a salad and a twice-baked potato with iced tea). I have never, and will never, forgive my co-workers for not calling me in early so I could watch you eat your potato and sip your iced tea. I will die with that resentment and I am ok with that.
I could wax on and on about how much I love your music and recount all that I have accomplished in life with your music as the soundtrack, but this is a fan letter and not a contest, so I will just let you know that at every major juncture in my life since becoming acquainted with your body of work (I definitely include your film work), I have clung to my Lyle library as if it was a life-saving blood infusion when I was bleeding to death.
When I moved from the Great State (of Texas) to Chicago in 1997, I brought a small “jam” box and 2 tapes: I Love Everybody and Road to Ensenada. I remember panicking on a daily basis during my first quarter at the University of Chicago because I didn’t know what the fuck anyone was talking about in any of my classes. I would come home and sit in my efficiency apartment (that smelled like ancient grains and curry) and listen to the song Fiona over and over again and tell myself that you might not know who Jacques Derrida is either and you seem to be doing quite well in life.
There are exactly 2 artists whose music have appeared on every single running mix I have ever made. That’s almost 20 years of running mixes (“playlists” in today’s parlance). That would be one Lyle P. Lovett (and also Rusted Root). I hit mile 21 of the Nashville marathon rather parched and in a significant amount of pain in some key body parts– hamstrings, glutes, calfs, toes and lungs. Suddenly my genius iPod Shuffle offered me Skinny Legs and I found new life– that song literally breathed new life into my flagging limbs. Let other runners have their Lady Gaga or their vintage Michael Jackson– I’ll take a quirky Lyle Lovett ballad or your rendition of a Texas folk song any fucking day of the week, including the High Holidays.
My father and I danced to the Texas River Song at my wedding. I now cannot hear that song without bursting into tears, though I was always get a little weepy when you sing about the Brazos River. My funeral notes will include detailed instructions about which songs to play first– to get everyone in the mood (Old Friend, Walk Through The Bottomland and LA County (unless I am the victim of gunfire))– and which songs to play at the end (Church and That’s Right, You’re Not From Texas, of course) to leave everyone with an upbeat, positive, toe-tapping melody in their heads.
When someone asks me about what albums I would take when banished to a desert island, I always say the same thing: “I don’t need five albums. I just need I Love Everybody.” Those are the tunes I want to die of dehydration to– let my life blood slip away to Fat Babies and let my best friend, a volleyball named Wilson, float away from me to the rhythm of Ain’t It Something. How fitting would it be to eat a poisonous desert flower while humming along to Record Lady?
Since I am laying bare my 20-year affection for you, I will be explicit: I never understood what you saw in Julia Roberts. She’s great, but she was a hot mess back then. Never for one second did I think she was the greater talent, the greater beauty or the greater soul. Not then, and not now. I was a little miffed when you took up with the young Ms. Kimble, because you know what? I knew a young woman from Texas A&M who would have been perfect for you after your untimely split from Ms. Roberts, a petite little brunette who would have been more than happy to stop stalking you and become your arm candy. Just saying.
I forgive you.
I carry of piece of you with me always: Sadie’s hair. Tell me she doesn’t look like your follicular doppelgänger! I have told Sadie that her hair looks like yours since she was 17 months old, and one day she will one day understand that as the compliment it is.
Have I conveyed how much your music has meant to me all these years? Your words and your voice are like love letters from Texas to me. They reach the parts of me that REM and U2 or Arcade Fire don’t even know exist. If I ever wrote a single word that touched readers like your music reaches me, then I would have the courage to write one more word, and then another, in hopes of creating a legacy as you have. My next house will have a porch and I will rock my babies back and forth and teach them This Old Porch. You are welcome to stop by anytime for some sweet tea; we won’t make you sing, but I would accept any hair tips you have.
With great love and admiration and gratitude,
Chrisie O. Tate (could have been Christie Lovett, if you played your cards right)