Why do you weep, dear willow? Your branch it hangs so low.
Could it be you know a secret that other trees don’t know?
“Why Do You Weep Dear Willow,” written by Lynn Davis and Gona Blakenship, and recorded by the Carter Sisters and Chet Atkins in 1949, is a country-bluegrass ballad about a dead mother. It warns of the mistake of taking one’s mother’s love for granted. So, it seems appropriate coming right after Mother’s Day.
In the song, the willow, rooted to the ground and protective of the mother’s grave, understands things that the roaming child has missed. It always makes me think about lost relationships, not so much with my mother, as she’s too tenacious for that (!), but others who have gone missing in my life over the years.
It also makes me think about the relationship between knowledge and empathy. We often turn away from bad news because… well, we can, and it is often unpleasant. Sometimes the griefs of the world can seem overwhelming, and since Adam and Eve, we have had an ambivalent attitude about knowledge. Yet without it, we cannot connect to other humans for we cannot empathize.
It has often been pointed out to me that the music that I like tends toward the rough and ready, and I guess that has to do with my desire for the genuine, and it’s true that most packaged singers create in me not admiration, but revulsion. Still, I’ll get to the arias eventually.
Here’s an available version of “Why Do You Weep Dear Willow” by Carl Story and the Rambling Mountaineers. Be forewarned: this is hardcore bluegrass, and you shouldn’t listen unless you can abide the wailing. Sometimes, though, some wailing does the heart good.