Monday, April 12, 2010

Take This Tune - The "Ruby" Version

This week on Take This Tune, Jamie gave us a prompt using the song Sam Stone by John Prine which tells the story of a man who comes home from war with shrapnel in his knee and an addiction to morphine that eventually ends his life off of the battlefield. The song exemplifies the lives "of those who come home from war broken either physically or mentally."

The first thing to pop into my head upon seeing the prompt was the song Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town written by Mel Tillis and originally recorded in 1967 by Johnny Darrell, who scored a number nine country hit with it that spring. Even though the song has been covered by Waylon Jennings, The Statler Brothers, Roger Miller, Bobby Bare, Leonard Nimoy, and others it was made the most famous by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition in 1969 during the time of the Vietnam War.

The song is about a disabled veteran who lies in bed helplessly while his wife, Ruby, gets herself all dolled up and ready to go out for the evening leaving her husband behind with legs that are "bent and paralyzed" as she goes out to take care of her own wants and needs.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that the wounded veteran knows that if his wife just had some patience, it wouldn't be long before the job that the war started was finished and he would no longer be around for her to step out on.

Even though the song refers to "that crazy Asian war", Mel Tillis actually based it on the real-life story of a soldier who was injured in Germany during World War II and sent to England to recuperate.  There he met and married a nurse who took care of him while he was in the hospital and the two of them eventually moved to Florida where flare-ups from his old wounds would periodically put the man back in the hospital.  While confined to a hospital bed, his wife would see another man.  Departing from the tragic real-life ending of murder-suicide, in the song Tillis nonetheless refers to it with the lyrics "if I could move I'd get my gun and put her in the ground."

The song was a major hit for Kenny Rogers and The First Edition reaching #1 in Britain and #6 on the Hot 100 in the United States as well as #39 on the country western charts of the time.  Worldwide, the single sold over 7 million copies for the band and remains one of the best known songs on the effects of the ravages of war on its returning soldiers. 

12 comments:

  1. I didn't realize so many people had recorded this song.
    Thanks for an interesting post!


    I guess I forgot that Kenny Rogers didn't always look like he looks now. ;-)

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  2. Great choice. It fits perfectly with the scenario. Thank you for taking part.

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  3. I remember hearing that song when it wasn't quite so old (insert geriatric comments here). The first time I heard that song was in the front seat of my mom's wood-pannelled station wagon while going on errands w/her. Of course, it took me a good number of years later to learn what the song was actually about! :-)

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  4. Interesting post, Linda! I just posted some lyrics from a John Prine song on Dianne's blog. I don't anything about "Take This Tune" but I love "Sam Stone," and most of Prine's songs. Very sad--but all very poetic and truthful.

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  5. I know the Kenny Rogers version so well. A real favourite. Didn't know there were so many others. Leonard Nimoy was a surprise!

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  6. My favorite version of "Ruby (Don't Take Your Love to Town)" was a live one by Mel Tillis and his Statesiders band, c. 1973. Brings back a lot of memories. Thanks for sharing.:)

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  7. I've never heard of Sam Stone. It may be something I've heard 100 times and just never knew the name of. I'll have to go check it out....
    BTW, excellent info on Ruby.

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  8. I almost didn't recognize Kenny without is gray hair! I actually saw him in concert about 3 years after this video was made. I was in the 1st row and he was gorgeous! What I remember most was that he was wearing a heavy green jacket and sweating like crazy... it was in Tampa, which was hot enough, then add a crowded concert hall and stage lights! Yikes!

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  9. Wow, I had forgotten what Kenny Rogers looked like back then! With all the facelifts he's had, he's barely recognizable now. I've always loved that song but never knew that it was Mel Tellis who wrote it!! I saw Kenny in concert in Niagara Falls, NY, a couple of years ago...he did an outdoor concert at the Seneca Casino and Steve surprised me by crossing the border to go see him:-) xoxo

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  10. me too, didn't remember kenny looking like this!

    smiles, bee
    xoxoxoxoxoxo

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  11. Add me to the list of folks who didn't know this song was recorded by so many. I was only aware of the First Edition edition.

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  12. I always loved this song, thanks for posting it

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