That’s the night I realized what that song meant


Terry and I like to play cards. Canasta is the usually game of choice, should there be a need to be specific.

We play with friends. And, we often just sit down a couple of times a week to play a round or two one-on-one.

During these games, it isn’t uncommon for us to turn on some music in the background. Lately, that means turning on the TV and switching over to one of the DirecTV music stations. I used to love the coffee shop station, but it has gotten to a point where it feels like the exact same ten artists and twenty songs are playing in rotation. So, the current station of choice has been the 70s channel.

All of this is a bit of a roundabout way of saying that “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” was on recently. This sparked a bit of a discussion, and for the life of me I could not recall what the actual story of the song was.

I had no idea it was about a wife having affairs and a murder and the death of an innocent man. I had no idea about the twist involving the singer’s part in the story.

Now, there’s a chance I absolutely did know all of this and more at one time, and since those days just forgot. The song was a hit in my youth, back in the early single-digit years, and honestly close to the “I am this many years old” declarations. I’ve heard the song played plenty of times. But, it comes with a bit of a cultural phenomenon status, like songs about muskrats and knocking three times… where you know the tune and can identify it quickly, but good luck remembering the names of the muskrats or how many times to bang on the pipe to say no.

(Editor’s note: Suzie, Sam, twice.)

More to the point, if you had asked me a year or two ago why the lights went out, I would have found several reasons as possible…

Literally… a power outage.

Figuratively… something bad happened, bringing about the use of imagery such the idea of lights going out and bringing on darkness.

If pressed, I would have gone with the first. I know there are other potential explanations, but it seems to work… something happened in Georgia, something that has become legendary for the locals over time, something the locals still talk about, and it caused the lights to go out. Car hitting a telephone pole… massive storm sweeping along… no more lights.

Yup… if I’m trying to recall exactly what I thought the song was about, I’m not certain that I would give you the same answer throughout my entire lifetime of knowing it. There could have been a time when I did know all the lyrics and did know what the song was about. The reality of recent times however is that for as long as I can recall, I thought the song was about something that happened during some a blackout in Georgia that was famous for some reason I didn’t know. Something of “do you remember where you were when” fame.

The crazy thing for me is that this isn’t a case of misheard lyrics. Instead, I simply both knew and didn’t know the song. I knew Vicki Lawrence sang it. I knew the title of the song and the melody. Knew the primary lyric. But the reality of what was going on? No clue.

So, that’s the story of the night the lights went on… so to speak. Bit of a reach for a joke to wrap things up… but then again, probably not an isolated incident. I just need to discover the background on a few more songs I thought I knew.


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