Queen of the Coast

Queen of the Coast by Laura Cantrell, so beautiful it makes me ache.

Susan often talks about the divine. Specifically, musicians being touched by it…  the divine. Her favorite example is the Beatles—really just John and George. I need to think about that, my favorite Beatles song is Don’t Pass Me By, written and sung by Ringo Starr. Nothing divine about it, but man it makes me want to sing along.

Susan points to their songs–magical, and the lyrics–displaying a maturity far beyond their twenty to thirty years of life. Impossible for a young adult to produce that on their own. God’s hand, clearly obvious over and over. Geniuses, Mozart, Van Gogh, Galileo. They set new rules, new standards. The word genius derives from Latin. An attendant spirit present from birth. Literally, a muse. Or a god. Or the divine.

Cantrell released her debut album Not the Tremblin’ Kind twenty-one years ago. She was an oddity, a country act, trying to make it in New York City. She attracted attention from a diverse fanbase. Look at me, from the late seventies through the nineties, my primary music genre was punk. Once I sent out an email to a group of friends: Hey, any of you have any Lead Belly (an old blues singer from the forties)? My friend Doug emailed me back: What? I didn’t think you listened to anything that came out before 1978! Case in point, Lead Belly attracted my attention because Nirvana covered one of his songs.

Cantrell’s music transcends genre.

Queen of the Coast is Cantrell’s story of country singer Bonnie Owens. I read an interview today where Cantrell lists Queen of the Coast as the song she’s most proud of:

The song’s emotions are complex and it holds up to repeated singing. I’ve realized that it weaves elements of Bonnie’s history, which might seem sad on the surface, with my own joyous experience of seeing her in concert and appreciating her music.

Several bloggers I follow post songs and lyrics from time to time. I always read what the blogger has to say, and often I read the lyrics. I rarely listen to the song. I need to pair my hearing aids to the computer, an extra step that usually proves to be the deal breaker. Be better than me. Play this song and read the words. I’ve been listening to it repeated for a week… Alexa, play Queen of the Coast. I’ve realized just how good it is. An angel’s voice. This is Creative Nonfiction to put the rest of us to shame.

Laura Cantrell has scads of great songs, but this one stands high above the rest. It’s clearly inspired from beyond.

Play –> Queen of the Coast <– Play

She was the Queen of the Coast back in nineteen sixty five,
Prettier ‘n most, she could keep a room alive,
With the catch in her voice and the beehive on her head.
Do you remember anything she ever said.

Well, some stars fade faster than the rest,
And the promise wore off though she did her best.
She finally looked around for somethin’ else to do.
What she found was a man who needed what she knew.

Have you forgotten? Have you forgiven?
Tell me are you livin’ just a little in your past every day.
Time sure has changed you; it’s walked right on by you.
Does it satisfy you to have so little to say?

For the next ten years she rode around on the bus.
She did washin’ and ironin’ and pickin’ up.
She had a place to stand at the back of the stage.
She was there every night, lookin’ her age.

She lent her voice, but she gave her heart.
And, I guess, that must’ve been the hardest part.
She figured out exactly what was goin’ on,
All the love she had given for a song.

Then things unraveled like they usually do.
She got her old heart busted up by husband, number two.
Have you forgotten? Have you forgiven?
Tell me are you livin’ just a little in your past every day.
Time sure has changed you; it’s walked right on by you.
Does it satisfy you to have so little to say?

I’m not quite sure when she got back on the bus.
But she’s still washin’ and ironin’ and pickin’ up.
If you look all the way to the back of the stage,
She’s standin’ at her mic, lookin’ her age.

In a roadstop in Reno at supper time,
The waitress comes over with a look in her eye.
Says: “I saw you in Modesto almost thirty years ago,
“An’ I can still remember every song in your show.”

“Please Help Me, I’m Falling.” “Don’t Come Home A-Drinking.”
Well, there’s a pair of swingin’ doors for every cowboy sweetheart tonight.
Time sure has changed you; it’s walked right on by you.
Does it satisfy you to have so little to say?

11 thoughts on “Queen of the Coast

  1. I agree that there are artists who were touched by something magical to produce what they did for their age. And like the Beatles, some just produced these great songs over and over again. Great recommendation – I’ll check the song out!


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