I took a break from my other projects tonight and wrote the saddest song I’ve ever written. Not melancholy, but just plain heartbreakingly sad. I didn’t even mean to write something like this. It just came out.

It’s called “Not In This World Or The Next One”. It’s about a soldier in Iraq, singing a song in his head to his wife as he’s dying in combat, telling her he loves her and he’s not afraid anymore and that she needs to forget him and go on. “Ghosts have no need of companions,” he says, “and no need of wives.” There’s no promise of redemption in it, no “I’ll see you in Heaven”. “Never again / Never again / Never again / Will I haunt you,” he says. “Never again / Never again / Not in this world or the next one”.

I mean, I know that sounds depressing, but it’s not me, it’s him, if that makes any sense. It’s the guy in the song.

I don’t know what the fuck to do with this. It’s a really good song, I think, but it’s also the only thing I’ve ever written that actually makes me want to cry. (I know that sounds dumb, but I can’t help it. It does.) I mean, what the fuck do I know about being a soldier? What do I even know about loving someone so much you tell them to forget you when you’re gone, because you couldn’t stand the idea of them pining away? The song is as honest as anything I’ve ever written, and it’s not maudlin or a big weepy number or anything. It’s actually in a major key, mostly, and the melody is plain. But it’s just incredibly goddamn sad.

I really don’t know what to do with this.

  1. Michael R. Bernstein

    “I really don’t know what to do with this.”

    Dude, just follow your muse.

    I’m sure you can recall other songs that were written from a perspective other than the lyricist’s own personal experience.

    Who says you only get to express your own angst? That would invalidate, not just songs, but almost all of the powerful, moving, and empathic fiction that’s been written.

    (of course, that doesn’t shield you from criticism if it isn’t done well, but you knew that)

  2. See if you can find a copy of a poem called “The Gunner’s Lament” by James K Baxter. It’s on a similar theme, and I think it might push your buttons. It gives me goosebumps, and starts:

    A Maori gunner lay dying,
    In a paddy field north of Saigon.

    Baxter was an avowed pacificist and conscientious objector, I don’t think you have to be a soldier to write about them.

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