Thursday, April 23, 2009

For Better or Worse

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Charlie Rich
SONGWRITER: Margaret Ann Rich
ALBUM: The Fabulous Charlie Rich
YEAR/LABEL: 1969; Epic

The radio spittin' out Charlie Rich
He sure can sing, that son of a bitch

("Putnam County," Tom Waits)

Johnny Cash had a song that said, "Understand your man." Margaret Ann Rich certainly did understand her man, legendary country/rockabilly singer Charlie Rich. A good songwriter herself, she composed a love song that Charlie recorded in 1969. Rich's version of the song bombed as a single, but the sentiment in the song stood the test of time. That song was "Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs."

Many others have recorded "
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs" (or the alternate title, "Life's Little Ups and Downs") including Ricky Van Shelton, who had a top ten hit with the song in 1990. Nothing, however, matches the original. Charlie Rich knew this was written for him, the observations of his love for his wife by the woman he loved. With that knowledge he poured his heart and soul into the tune about dealing with the disappointments that come along, knowing that the marriage bond is stronger than whatever the outside world throws.

The wonderful chorus compares the "ups and downs" of life to "ponies on a merry-go-round," and Rich notes, "No one grabs the brass ring every time." Rich, however, recognizes the one ring that he DID grab: "She wears a gold ring on her finger, and I'm so glad it's mine."

Charlie Rich passed away on July 25, 1995 from a pulmonary embolism. He left behind a legacy of great music that has generally been overlooked or forgotten. That's a shame. He was a good singer and songwriter and a very gifted musician -- so good, in fact, that a Sun Records engineer told him to listen to Jerry Lee Lewis then come back for a record deal when Rich played "that bad." One of his greatest moments was this lovely ode to the love of his life.


The entire Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich album -- the hits, the near-hits, and some obscure gems such as the wonderfully-titled pun "Peace on You" and his version of "Sittin' and Thinkin'," which has been covered by acts as diverse as Ray Price and Elvis Costello.

Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

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