74: That’s My Job

74: That’s My Job

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

That’s My Job

Story by Gary Burr

Song written by Gary Burr

Recorded by Conway Twitty

Every word in this song was based on my life, except the title. That came from the Muse, but everything else in there was based on my life and my relationship with my father.

My dad passed away in 1986 and a few days after that I went down to my basement, where I used to go and write songs. I was living in Connecticut at the time, and I picked up my guitar and started singing the song and writing it as I went, and I pretty much sang it out just the way it was recorded. I’ve never had that happen before.

The description of the house in the song, with the mirror at the end of the hall, is the house I grew up in. As a little boy, I would have these bad dreams that my parents had died, and I would go in their room and they would calm me down and let me get into their bed and sleep with them.

When I was in college, I had a chance to move to California to be in a band, so I decided to drop out of school to move to California. My parents obviously didn’t want me to go. They thought I was making a huge mistake. My mom and dad sat me down and told me all the reasons why I shouldn’t go, and tried to talk me out of it. They were just fit to be tied. I listened to them, and then I told them that this is what I was going to do. I had made up my mind. I was going out west. Then they looked at me and said, “How can we help?” They bought me two amplifiers, so when we got to California we could have something to play into. All the guys in the band had sold our equipment to get the money to go to California.

As for the song, there are some serious grammatical errors in it, but I never went back to rewrite it. The reason I never rewrote it is because I never thought anyone would record it. I thought it was too personal. And it was too long. It had a very non-country structure. But I turned it in because that’s what I was supposed to do — to play it for the people who were publishing me. I had no expectations, though. A couple of guys and I had formed a publishing company and they were in New York at the time, but they had some outlets in Nashville, so they sent it down there.

I always heard that Conway Twitty was the guy to pitch to. Everyone I knew always said that Conway would really listen to a song that had a strong lyric and that he would cut it regardless of whether it was commercial or not. If he liked it, he would do it. So they pitched it to him on a whim. I think he was the first person we pitched it to. And boom, it was on the radio and my boyhood home was being described in a song on country radio stations all around the country.

I got married pretty young. When my dad passed away, I was already a dad myself. But when your father goes, then you’re the “man.” It really puts things into perspective. It certainly made me think of a time in the future when my kids would be going through this. And I want them to be able to say the same things and to have the same feelings about me that I had about my dad.

That’s My Job

I woke up cryin’ late at night, when I was very young

I had dreamed my father had passed away and gone.

My world revolved around him. I couldn’t lie there anymore

So I made my way down the mirrored hall and tapped upon his door.

And I said, “Daddy, I’m so afraid.

How would I go on, with you gone that way?

Don’t wanna cry anymore

So may I stay with you?”

CHORUS:

And he said, “That’s my job. That’s what I do.

Everything I do is because of you

To keep you safe with me.

That’s my job, you see.”

Later we barely got along, this teenage boy and he

Most of the fights, it seems, were over different dreams

We each held for me.

He wanted knowledge and learning. I wanted to fly out west

Said “I could make it out there, if I just had the fare

I got half, will you loan me the rest?”

And I said, “Daddy, I’m so afraid

There’s no guarantee in the plans I’ve made

And if I should fail, who will pay my way back home?”

CHORUS

Every person carves his spot, and fills the hole with life

And I pray someday I might light as bright as he.

I woke up early one bright fall day and spread the tragic news

After all my travels, I settled down within a mile or two.

I make my livin’ with words and rhymes, and all this tragedy

Should go into my head and out instead, as bits of poetry.

But I say, “Daddy I’m so afraid.

How will I go on, with you gone this way?

How can I come up with a song to say, ‘I love you’?”

That’s my job, that’s what I do

Everything I do is because of you

To keep you safe with me. That’s my job, you see.

Everything I do is because of you

To keep you safe with me.

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