Click to listen

Click to listen

Sept. 29: Jerry Lee Lewis turns 74 today, which is as good a reason as any to dip into his wonderful country catalog from the late 1960s. They call him The Killer, a word that also describes this song. He recorded for Smash, a word that also describes this record.

“She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye” (No. 2 on Billboard‘s country chart in 1969) was the eighth in a string of 14 straight Top 10 singles from 1968 to ’70. (Lewis notched 13 more Top 10s from ’71 to ’81.) It was an amazing comeback for a man whose entertainment career nearly died after he married his 13-year-old cousin in the late ’50s.

(The story of Lewis’ career is too long for this post, but check out his artist profile page from Rolling Stone‘s Web site here, and a discography here.)

As for the song, it came from the pen of Doug Gilmore and the late Mickey Newbury. “It remains,” writes Doug Waterman in a fine essay on AmericanSongwriter.com, “one of Newbury’s greatest songs …

… a statement of loss as stark and powerful as anything by Willie Nelson. It also contains one of the finest lines ever put to paper in a musical composition: ‘Just like the dawn/My heart is silently breaking.’ This isn’t so much a lyric as it is poetry that’s clear, simple and devastating.”

Jerry Lee had a habit of adding a little spoken tagline during or after the last notes of his country records — words seldom heard on the radio because AM deejays would invariably talk over them. So enjoy this record, from The Killer’s four-note piano intro to his two-word sign-off. You won’t hear a peep out of me.

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