Kenny Rogers, “Ruby” and A Tentative Peek Into 2020

I have been putting off writing this, my first post of the new calendar year, as somehow my foray into the world of blogging has coincided with the world going to hell in a handbasket. I know this has nothing to do with me and my little blog, but weird how things have worked out, both closer to home and in the world at large.

Can it really be that only four years ago we were still very much in the EU; Barrack Obama was at the helm in the US; David Bowie, George Michael and Prince were still with us; Mr WIAA and I both had jobs we enjoyed; my mum was well and living independently; my back, neck and shoulders didn’t ache all the time; and my daughter lived in a flat just round the corner? None of these things now apply. Also, we seem to be on the verge of war, and one of our continents is on fire.

My blog’s timeline

Heading into a new decade, can I really still justify spending most of my free time researching, and writing about, the pop music of my youth? I admit to having lost much of my joie de vivre of late and I know this has been reflected in my blogging which was always meant to be light-hearted and fun. It’s just really tough trying to stay upbeat at the moment, but I suppose we must try.

Looking at my sidebar on the right, I have a long list of categories that seem to have built up over the years. The first ones on the list are the decades from which the songs I write about come. Looks as if there will have to be a new decade added soon, as although on a technicality it seems we are not actually in the 2020s yet, I think most of us would agree it makes sense for us to think of it as such. The decade I seem to have revisited more often than any other around here is the 1970s which is probably the decade I spent most time listening to, and obsessing over, chart music. Perhaps then, in order to get past this obstacle of publishing my first post of the year, I should look back at what we were listening to 50 years ago just as a new decade was dawning.

Well, well, maybe things haven’t changed that much after all – The song at the top of the UK Singles Chart on the 6th January 1970 was actually the very first single I ever bought with my own money, yet it is one (look it up here) I have never been able to admit to around here, as the artist involved spent a fair bit of time residing At Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

Time to move on then and joy of joys, the record at the No. 2 spot was one of the best story songs ever written, Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town performed by the wonderful Kenny Rogers when he was still with The First Edition.

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition:

Took me a while to recognise Kenny in that clip as many of us are more used to his silver fox appearance in the later stages of his career. His very distinctive, understated vocals are perfect for this song however, and I especially love the sound patterning in this line (even Kenny has a sly grin as he sings it):
And the wants and the needs of a woman your age, Ruby, I realize

The percussion accompanying this line is also just perfect and mimics the footsteps outside the door:
She’s leaving now ’cause I just heard the slamming of the door

Less said about this next line the better. Suffice to say not to be recommended:
And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground

And finally he almost whispers:
…. for God’s sakes turn around

Because of the timeline, it’s assumed the crazy Asian war they refer to in the song is the Vietnam War so yet again maybe things haven’t changed so much after all. Maybe it’s just that in 1970 my life was as yet unaffected by the kind of stuff we worry about as adults.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I wasn’t sure if I would be able to carry on blogging this year as it seems somehow frivolous to write about pop music when life just seems to be getting tougher year on year. Then again, as it’s often mentioned around here, it can be a real stress-buster and possibly I’ve just had one too many personal knocks of late which has coloured my view of the world. Also, as I’ve just discovered by revisiting the music charts of 1970, back then we had songs about wars happening on the other side of the world and songs by artists who were later found to be sexual predators of the worst kind. Maybe it’s time to concentrate on doing the best for our families, friends and community, and not worry too much about the stuff we can do little about. We have to hope that humanity wins out in the end.


Until next time….  Happy New Year (I think).

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town Lyric
(Song by Mel Tillis)

You’ve painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tinted hair
Ruby, are you contemplating going out somewhere?
The shadow on the wall tells me the sun is going down

Oh, Ruby,
Don’t take your love to town

It wasn’t me that started that old crazy Asian war
But I was proud to go and do my patriotic chore
And yes, it’s true that I’m not the man I used to be

Oh, Ruby,
I still need some company

It’s hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed
And the wants and the needs of a woman your age, Ruby, I realize
But it won’t be long I’ve heard them say until I’m not around

Oh, Ruby,
Don’t take your love to town

She’s leaving now ’cause I just heard the slamming of the door
The way I know I’ve heard it slam one hundred times before
And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground 

Oh, Ruby,
Don’t take your love to town

Oh, Ruby,
for God’s sakes turn around


Interestingly an answer song to Ruby was also released in 1969 by an artist called Geraldine Stevens. Called Billy, I’ve Got To Go To Town the melody is just the same, but this time the lyrics confirm Ruby’s love for her paralysed husband and she pleads for him to have faith in her fidelity. Not a big hit this one, but fascinating how these larger-than-life characters in songs can then spawn new songs, continuing the story-telling. If anyone knows of any other similar answer songs please share, as I’m now kind of intrigued.