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Monday, January 16, 2012

SONGS I LIKE: Fancy (Reba McEntire)

It sounded like somebody else that was talkin'
Askin' Mama what do I do
She said just be nice to the gentlemen Fancy
And they'll be nice to you

Sometimes music deals with the worst parts of life. In fact, often blues, country, and bluegrass will do just that, focusing on the hardest moments and how you get through them. Johnny Cash wrote songs about suicide and failure, and he did a wonderful version of the Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt" about drug addiction. These kinds of songs can be hard to listen to, but at the same time can be healing and powerful tools to deal with hardship. Listening to the blues when you're feeling down can be quite helpful.

The song "Fancy" by Reba McEntire is about a young girl in a terrible situation being sent out by her mom to try to save the family. In essence, her mom turns her out as a hooker to earn money so they can survive. This is a cruel, awful story that is far too common, but when women are with their backs against the wall sometimes there doesn't seem to be any other options - and some times there aren't.

Fancy starts out a little girl in a low down shack, moves up to being a high priced call girl, and finally ends up living a better life. Her story is sad and while defiant and determined, the hopeless sadness of her life comes through and you can't help but feel for a woman who had no hope but to give up everything and be used by others. Now she's doing well financially but her life still seems dominated by that moment when her mom turned her out.

There's a lot of girls out there in this situation, and while its easy to condemn them, what they need most is compassion and a way to escape - or at least the knowledge how. That's one of the most needed and least implemented charity services in the world, mostly because of where it takes you and who you have to deal with. God help these women and girls, because few other people are.

I remember it all very well lookin' back
It was the summer I turned eighteen
We lived in a one room, rundown shack
On the outskirts of New Orleans
We didn't have money for food or rent
To say the least we were hard pressed
Then Mama spent every last penny we had
To buy me a dancin' dress

Mama washed and combed and curled my hair
And she painted my eyes and lips then I stepped into a satin
Dancin' dress that had a split on the side clean up to my hip
It was red velvet trim and it fit me good
Standin' back from the lookin' glass
There stood a woman where a half gown kid had stood

She said here's your one chance Fancy don't let me down
Here's your one chance Fancy don't let me down

Mama dabbed a little bit of perfume on my neck
And she kissed my cheek
Then I saw the tears wellin' up in her troubled eyes
When she started to speak
She looked at a pitiful shack
And then she looked at me and took a ragged breath
She said your Pa's run off and I'm real sick
And the baby's gonna starve to death

She handed me a heart shaped locket that said
"To thine own self be true"
And I shivered as I watched a roach crawl across
The toe of my high heel shoe
It sounded like somebody else that was talkin'
Askin' Mama what do I do
She said just be nice to the gentlemen Fancy
And they'll be nice to you

She said here's your chance Fancy don't let me down
Here's your one chance Fancy don't let me down
Lord forgive me for what I do, but if you want out
Well it's up to you
Now don't let me down you better start movin' uptown

Well, that was the last time I saw my Ma
The night I left that rickety shack
The welfare people came and took the baby
Mama died and I ain't been back

But the wheels of fate had started to turn
And for me there was no way out
And it wasn't very long 'til I knew exactly
What my Mama's been talkin' about

I knew what I had to do but I made myself this solemn vow
That I's gonna be a lady someday
Though I don't know when or how
I couldn't see spending the rest of my life
With my head hung down in shame you know
I might have been born just plain white trash
But Fancy was my name

Here's your one chance Fancy don't let me down
Here's your one chance Fancy don't let me down

It wasn't very long after a benevolent man
Took me off the street
And one week later I was pourin' his tea
In a five room hotel suite

I charmed a king, a congressman
And an occasional aristocrat
Then I got me a Georgia mansion
In an elegant New York townhouse flat
And I ain't done bad

Now in this world there's a lot of self-righteous hypocrite
That would call me bad
And criticize Mama for turning me out
No matter how little we had

But though I ain't had to worry 'bout nothin'
For nigh on fifteen years
I can still hear the desperation in my poor
Mama's voice ringin' in my ear

She said, here's your one chance Fancy don't let me down
Here's your one chance Fancy don't let me down
Lord, forgive me for what I do
But if you want out well it's up to you
Now don't let me down
Your Mama's gonna help you uptown

I guess she did


This is part of the Songs I Like series.

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