45: Letting Go

45: Letting Go

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Letting Go

Story by Doug Crider

Song written by Doug Crider and Matt Rollings

Recorded by Suzy Bogguss

I was probably thinking about two different people when I wrote “Letting Go.” I was thinking of how my own parents must have felt when I went off to college, but I was also thinking about my mother-in-law. My wife, Suzy Bogguss, and I were married in 1986, and I wrote this maybe a year later, so I was definitely thinking of Suzy’s mom letting go of her at that point also.

I grew up in Tampa and went off to Belmont College in Nashville. I was one of those guys who wanted to be gone. I wanted to be out of the house and on my own. I was ready but my mother wasn’t. I remember going to Nashville and my mom helping me move in and her being really emotional and having a tough time with it.

This is one of those themes that make people sad, but it feels right to be sad about it. Somehow the singer in the song became a female. I’m not really sure how that happened. There’s a line that says, “She’s had eighteen years to get ready for this day,” which could apply to either the mother or the daughter. I hadn’t written the song to pitch to Suzy at all.

There’s another line in the song about “the painting in the hallway that she did in junior high.” That was definitely about my wife. She was an art student and we still have the paintings that she did in junior high and high school up in our attic. They were the paintings that went with her to college and then came to Nashville when she moved here. There’s another line about “the lamp up in the attic, so she’ll have a light to study by.” A good friend of my family’s here in Nashville had a chair in her attic, and she gave it to me when I came to Belmont so I could have some place to sit and study. So the chair became a lamp, but that was based on my experience.

I was a staff songwriter for Warner Bros. at the time, and the song got pitched around town a little, but frankly it was pretty pop for what was going on in country music at the time. The demo was pretty darn pop, too, so it got pitched some in L.A. but not very much in Nashville. This was in the middle of the “New Traditionalist” movement when Randy Travis and people like that were really hot, so the labels all wanted pure country.

People knew it was a great song, but nobody knew what to do with it. So it sat around for a few years until Suzy did her Aces album in 1991. She said she wanted to do this, and everybody was surprised. She said, “Well, just let me do it and we’ll see what happens.” The timing was a little better then so it turned out to be a hit. It went all the way to #6.

Oprah Winfrey did a show using the song as a theme, and then there is a radio talk show in Chicago on WGN that does an annual special using the song each fall. When it’s back-to-school time, a couple of women up there do a show where people call in and talk about their kids going off to college. The song also sells a lot of sheet music because it gets sung at a lot of commencements.

Over the years, the song has completely turned around for Suzy. Now we have a sixteen-year-old son, so she is getting ready to be the mom in the song. Ever since Ben was born, we’ve had this song around, so we’ve always talked about it happening to us one day. It’s easy to talk about it now, but it will be a lot harder when it actually happens.

Letting Go

She’ll take the painting in the hallway,

The one she did in jr. high

And that old lamp up in the attic,

She’ll need some light to study by.

She’s had 18 years to get ready for this day

She should be past the tears, she cries some anyway

Oh, oh letting go

There’s nothing in the way now,

Oh letting go, there’s room enough to fly

And even though, she’s spent her whole life waiting,

It’s never easy letting go.

Mother sits down at the table

So many things she’d like to do

Spend more time out in the garden

Now she can get those books read too.

She’s had 18 years to get ready for this day

She should be past the tears, she cries some anyway.

Oh, oh letting go

There’s nothing in the way now,

Oh letting go, there’s room enough to fly

And even though, she’s spent her whole life waiting,

It’s never easy letting go.

Oh, oh letting go

There’s nothing in the way now,

Oh letting go, there’s room enough to fly

And even though, she’s spent her whole life waiting,

It’s never easy letting go.

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