At the risk of sounding geekier than you probably already think I am, I have a little confession: I love youtube. I mean, really, really love it. With a few strokes of the keyboard, I can find every ridicules thing said by any given celebrity or politician in front of a camera or microphone. And, on top of all that, I can pretty well hunt down any song my ears may be craving. In the very rare occasion that I uproot my rather large rear and attempt to purge my home of filth, I like to use the genius of youtube to listen to my favorite tunes of days gone by.
And it was in this ritual that I found James Dupre. I was in an old, twangy country mood that afternoon and, after listening to several George Strait songs, I searched for a Garth Brooks classic. Normally, I am a bit hesitant to listen to covers on youtube, as it truly is like a box of chocolates. However, I'm quite pleased that I decided to listen to James.
As soon as music flowed over his lips, I must admit I developed a bit of a crush. He just has one of those voices that leaves young girls and old women weeping into the midnight. What She's Doing Now has always been a love song that's pulled on my heart strings, raw and poetic. It may have made Garth millions, but it was clearly written for James.
After I played this first ballad, I was drawn in. I had to listen to more. Looking at the lengthy list of songs James has covered on youtube, it appears that he and I have very similar tastes in music. With each tune, I was brought back to a different point in my life. He sang The Joker by The Steve Miller Band and I was back, a decade ago, drinking beer on the grassy stage of the Zoo Ampitheater, ending the summer with the annual Steve Miller Band concert. This was how we rung in each new school year throughout high school. The song ended and I played on.
Although I was cleaning my kitchen in Cheyenne, Oklahoma, as I took in Let Her Cry, in my mind I was driving through South Carolina in 1995 with my old friend Melissa and my cousin Trisha by my side. That was the summer I discovered Hootie and the Blowfish.
By the time I stumbled onto James's rendition of My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, I was cracking open a beer myself. His steel, rustic voice bellowed through my home and I thought of fishing in prairie farm ponds 20 years ago with my grandfather and a handful of my cousins. Grandpa will be gone five years this December and my heart aches each time I realize he never saw either of my sons. James really hits this one out of the park, so I played it multiple times. Somewhere around time three or four, I remembered the day I first knew I really loved my husband. Just a few months into our relationship, we went to rope wild, roaming cattle on the north end of the county. When Rowdy, cowboy extraordinaire, completed his extra cowboyish task, he stretched his long legs out on his flat bed while he sucked down a beer. I watched his profile in the sunset and absorbed the quite romantic moments of witnessing first hand one of the lasts of a dying breed. From that moment on, Rowdy took on a new definition to me and this particular song has always seemed to describe it far better than I could.
And then I came across Mr. Bojangles. There I was, sitting in the floor with my legs crossed in the living room of David and Patty Cummings as a circled group of musicians picked through the midnights of my wildly misspent youth. It's funny how things that seemed to define or anchor your life for a season somehow become a memory that pops into your head just a few short years later through the helpful hand of a melody. The people who were important to me during that time of my life are still among the most important to me now, all this time later, although each of our lives have taken a much different form than the carefree, beer-soaked dance it was back then. Some songs and some friends and some memories just mold your destiny, I suppose.
As misty-eyed and nostalgic as James Dupre's powerful voice had already made me, I avoided one song he had posted for a few hours before I broke down and played it. I knew once I started it, there would be no turning back. Tears would fall and my heart would break. It was the late Spring of 1999 and I was driving my awesome Plymouth Laser as James Ashworth rode shotgun. We sang the song louder than the radio, so loud the breath-taking Oklahoma outdoors had to pause just to hear us. James's birthday is next Tuesday, he would've been 28. As hard as it is to believe that we are now just 2 years from 30, it's even harder to believe that James will be gone 4 years this April. Because Name was popular when I graduated and because the Goo Goo Dolls were one of the first bands I saw in concert, their music has been a long-time favorite of mine. But, this afternoon as James Dupre belted out the lyrics, "We grew up way too fast and there's nothing to believe," I shook my head as I sang along. Somehow that means so much more to me now than it did back then. Every time I think of James's untimely death, I lose my breath as though I've just taken a swift punch to the gut. It makes less sense to me today than it did when it happened and I know even if I live to be 100, I will never be able to wrap my mind around brutal injustice of his premature passing. But, here in this lifetime, I know I am a better friend and, moreover, a better mother for having known him and, for that, I am eternally grateful for the blessing of having known James Dalton Ashworth.
There's a reason art is often referred to as the humanities. It's suppose to make you feel, it's suppose to take you back. I'm so glad I found James Dupre on youtube. Most assuredly, I will be back to his profile. He's posted so many songs that I haven't even come close to hearing them all. From Jackson Browne to George Strait, he gives a new meaning to some of my favorite classics. I hope you all enjoy this as much as I have. Maybe it will be the time machine for you as it was for me, transcending all the moments that have passed between you and some long, lost place.