Road songs often have an emotional impact far exceeding expectations. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” Kris Kristofferson sings in “Me And Bobby McGee,” and therein lies the key. Freedom (or the lack of it) is a potent, pervasive theme in road songs. Most of us lead lives of quiet desperation, but give us four wheels, an open highway, and a distant horizon, and our hearts take wing. “Freedom” might mean pushing a broom, as in “King Of The Road,” or it might mean dreaming of driving to a better place in a “Fast Car,” or maybe just getting out of “Lodi,” but freedom calls to one and all. This column challenges you to hitch a ride on your imagination and write a road song. Your destination will be all your own, but “Me And Bobby McGee” will be your road map. The first lesson “Bobby” has to teach is sacrifice. Kris Kristofferson ― Rhodes scholar, helicopter pilot, Army captain ― declined an offer to teach English literature at West Point so he could come to Nashville, clean ashtrays at CBS studios, and write songs. His parents retaliated by disowning him. So how badly do you want this song. Are you willing to sacrifice at least a few hours of Facebook or cable TV time on the altar of creativity. (Hint: Better be!) The second lesson to be learned from Bobby is immersion. “Mickey Newbury once said it [’60s Nashville] was like Paris in the ’20s,” Kristofferson recalls in a 2008 interview in Performing Songwriter. “We’d sit around all night, talking about what worked in a song and what didn’t, and why.” Moral: Find yourself a musical hothouse and move in. Meanwhile, immerse your ears in road songs. Here’s a starter list: “We Gotta Get Out Of... Sign In to Keep Reading
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