One of These Days

Until a few years ago, when I moved far enough way from work that I started spending a substantial amount of time in the car each day, I hadn’t really had a chance to keep up with current music other than gospel (which I make a point to keep up with by non-radio means). Before, say, 2003, I hadn’t listened to country music on the radio in any consistent way since I was a kid and my father kept the car tuned to KTJJ all the time (memory-hole tangent: on Sundays, KTJJ often played the music of whatever performers had been on Hee Haw the night before, and when I was a wee little Baptist, I always felt jilted that we had to go to church and couldn’t go to the radio station and see all these great country stars performing their music for us hillbillies down in the sticks … I mean, they had traveled all this way to our radio station for us the day after having been on Hee Haw … and I had to go to Sunday School instead!). Which is a rambling way of explaining why it is that I have a huge gap in my country-music knowledge that lasts from around 1988 to … well, now, give or take.So, I confess to not having ever heard Tim McGraw’s “One of These Days” until this afternoon in the car. I will deny this later but I was so taken by the song that I immediately starting thumbing out a message on my phone to a friend … “have u heard this new tim mcgraw song ‘1 of these days’? so so melody but lyrics are pretty deep for country and it doesn’t go for schmaltzy ending.”

Listening to the first verse - in which the singer recalls an uncool kid who ran away from home in no small part because of the way he was treated by the singer and his callously cool friends - I thought, “there’s now way this song will be able to pull off this kind of unflinching self-reflection without going wobbly and getting emotionally sloppy.” After all, how many country songs do you hear in which a man like Tim McGraw sings lines like these about another male:

And one day he ran away from home, you see
And I passed him as he walked away
And in his eyes I heard him say

one of these days youre gonna love me
Youll sit down by yourself and think
About the times you pushed and shoved me
And what good friends we mightve been
And then youre gonna sigh a little
Maybe even cry a little but
One of these days youre gonna love me

I’m not suggesting any kind of homoeroticism here (though certainly the song could easily be describing the treatment more than a few gay or just gay-seeming kids have received in the kind of situation the song imagines). Rather, the lyrics assumes (rightly, I think) that the average listener can and will identify with dimensions of “love” that defy the silly idealizations of pop culture’s treatment of the subject.

Love in country music (like the idea of grace in gospel music) is often oversimplified as a fairy-tale experience tailored made for tv movies or a touching Reader’s Digest portrait. It’s rare to find popular music lyrics that push past these misrepresentations to describe bonds that cohere (and don’t) in the fuzzier, less distinct but more ordinary borderlands of human interaction - spaces between awe-shucks innocence and thunderstruck romance, places where love doesn’t rhyme with stars above and wings of the dove but involves layers of living and feeling that (usually) defy the glibness of the Top 40.

“One of These Days” imagines love as simultaneously a human and spiritual commodity that one gets and gives only when the soul is in right order. After the second verse describing how the singer selfishly crushed a high-school sweetheart, the song concludes with this verse and modified chorus:

Now everybody stands up
The congregation sings
Its a song of sweet forgiveness
And as the chorus rings
The wind blows clear my memory
The pages start to turn
Then suddenly Im singin
The moment that I learn

One of these days Im gonna love me
And feel the joy of sweet release
One of these days, I’ll rise above me
And at last Ill find some peace
Then Im gonna smile a little
Maybe even laugh a little but
One of these days Im gonna love me

Love they neighbor as thyself. Do unto others …. “One of These Days” is, I think, at its root, a gospel song, not just in its sense of love as one of a variety of expressions of a larger spiritual force for good and for redemption in the world, but also in its joining of redemptive vision with the Protestant tradition of hymn singing out of which gospel music grew (and when you hear a trite song like “That’s What I love About Sundays,” you realize how much more authentic “One of these Days” is as a portrait of Protestant religious life). “The congregation sings / It’s a song of sweet forgiveness / And as the chorus rings / The wind blows clear my memory.” Who among gospel music fans can’t recall his or her own similar experience, can’t forget a moment when glimpsing grace has turned us inward in selfless reflection and discovery, sometimes even epiphany?

This is so good that it makes you wish you’d written it yourself. And “One of These Days’ is a good example of work that could be described as that of a “writer’s writer.” But I think the true measure of the song’s value is that it manages to be both expertly crafted while also being more widely accessible and - most of all - undeniably true.

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