Lyle Lovett: “Nobody Knows Me”
I saw Lyle Lovett in concert last Friday, and it was everything I’d hoped for, not having seen him live before. Great singing from Lovett, great playing from his “Large Band” (as they’re known), and a great rapport with the audience. Lovett is indeed not only one of the best American songwriters of the past 30 years, but one of the most likable people in all of music. Really, I would give anything just to hang out with him for a couple of days, shooting the breeze over coffee in the morning or beer in the evening, because I suspect that it he would have endlessly fascinating takes on just about any subject he chose to light upon. Lyle, do you need a roadie?
Lovett is known for his sardonic songwriting, rarely tackling any subject completely head-on. He usually takes a somewhat offbeat and/or humorous tack, even when the subject is heartbreak. Take, for example, his classic “Nobody Knows Me,” from his great 1989 album, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. At first listen, this song with the gorgeous melody is about how much he loves his girlfriend/wife and how well she knows him, but then comes the twist:
But it was a dream made to order
South of the border
And nobody knows me like my baby
And she cried man how could you do it
And I swore that there weren’t nothing to it
But nobody knows me like my baby
And nobody holds me
And nobody knows me
Nobody knows me like my baby
The double-edged sword is that she knew him so well that she could see past his lies, seeing through to his betrayal. And then you can see that there should be some punctuation in the chorus: “And nobody holds me. And nobody knows me. Nobody knows me like my baby.” As it turns out, he’s singing this after she’s left him, and he’s all alone.
It’s just the kind of thing that makes every song Lovett writes like listening to an audio book set to music. (Although that doesn’t really sound as good as I mean it to be.) It’s almost surprising that he hasn’t written a novel. But then again, he writes several stories on each album he releases, so he probably doesn’t really feel the need.
Lyle Lovett is an underappreciated American treasure — if you haven’t checked him out because you think he’s too “country,” he isn’t really. He blends everything from country inflections to Texas swing to rock to folk to gospel to come up with his own somewhat hard-to-define genre. And it’s well worth your time on nearly every album he has released.