Song of the Day #1,315: ‘When She’s Gone’ – Mary Chapin Carpenter

One of the neat things about Random Weekends is happening upon songs that I’ve long ago forgotten I own.

Today’s track is a cut from Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 1990 album Shooting Straight in the Dark. It’s a lovely ballad about the end of a relationship, specifically the man’s apathetic reaction to his lover walking out on him.

A few years ago, my sister and brother-in-law and I played a bracketing game in which we pitted various things against each other in head-to-head competition until we arrived at a final 8, 4, 2 and then a winner. Things like “Best movies of the 90s,” “Best Lyle Lovett songs,” “Best female musical artist.” Fun game.

This Carpenter song was background material for that “best female” competition. We realized there were artists each of us wanted to include with whom the others weren’t sufficiently familiar, and rather than excluding them from the contest altogether, we took the opportunity to evangelize.

So I burned my sister compilations by Aimee Mann, Lucinda Williams and Fiona Apple, among others, and she returned the favor with work by Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

So that is how ‘When She’s Gone’ found it’s way into my iTunes library, ripe for the picking on this Random Weekend in February. Every song has a story, both before and after it is written and recorded.

For the record, Joni Mitchell ultimately won the “Best female musical artist” competition, carried to the end by the two votes of my sister and her husband, which overwhelmed my passionate minority opinion. Sometimes democracy fails us.

She threw her purse upon the bed
She looked around and shook her head
There’s really nothing left, she said
There’s nothing I ain’t done
She wore your favorite dress tonight
She hoped her hair would catch the light
And you just sat there gettin’ tight
On double shots of rum

You don’t care what people say
They’re gonna say it anyway
You don’t hear what you can’t use
It’s always been the same old news
You don’t beg and you don’t plead
Or miss a thing that you don’t need
She knew by the way you kissed her
When she’s gone, you won’t miss her

Morning comes on an old cat’s paws
And when the sun hits the walls
The light’s as bright as it ever was
After or before
And you wince as waking pounds your head
And you drag your arm across the bed
And the tangled sheets and the twisted spread
Fall onto the floor

And the kitchen table finds you silent
If you had a thought, now you can’t find it
You take a long drag on your smoke
And taste your coffee growing cold
She didn’t beg and you didn’t plead
She knew exactly how to leave
The way she knew when you kissed her
When she’s gone, you won’t miss her

She didn’t beg and you didn’t plead
She knew exactly when to leave
The way she knew as you kissed her
When she’s gone, you won’t miss her

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3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,315: ‘When She’s Gone’ – Mary Chapin Carpenter

  1. Amy says:

    I love that use the word “evangelize,” as no other word would be quite as accurate! :) While this is far from my favorite Mary Chapin Carpenter song, it does have all of the elements that make her such a fine songwriter. Simplicity. Honesty. Specific details. And that voice. I just love her. If I’d had my way, she might have beaten Joni Mitchell. Alas, democracy knocked her out when you and Dana opted for Aimee Mann (or Fiona Apple) over her. Fun game indeed! :)

  2. Dana says:

    Democracy is messy, but it is the only system we have for our musical contests:) Would you rather live in China, where the government tells you that Faye Wong (that’s right, look it up, bey-otch!) is the best female songwriter and you must accept that or be imprisoned!

    Anyway, I do love Carpenter, and this is a very pleasant example of her wonderful writing and delivery. Good stuff indeed.

  3. Andrea Katz says:

    Hooray for Joni mitchell winning. Throwing my really whacko 2 cents into the mix!

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