Townes Van Zandt–Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel

Sometimes the goodbye is the thing itself.  In Townes Van Zandt’s heartbreaking Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel, the farewell isn’t about starting a new adventure or being forced to leave your love behind.  Instead, the goal is the goodbye.  Something bad’s been going on for far too long and it needs to end definitively.  Van Zandt’s voice is strong but calm as he tells the tale of breaking free from a woman who’s using him.  It’s a tug-of-war, describing power plays and moments of manipulation on the way to independence.  “How long will it be before he sees/That you own his legs but his mind is free?” he asks, while nearing the door.  The song is somewhat of a departure for Van Zandt, lyrically defiant and direct.  It’s also one of the fews songs in his catalogue to employ drums, with a gently rolling beat making itself known almost exclusively in the chorus.  Even though they’re upbeat, they give heft to his words, a richly rendered series of parables and accusations.  It’s all working up to the final goodbye, with Van Zandt practically daring her to care: “I ain’t gonna try to make you cry/The teardrops couldn’t find your eyes/It’s all been swell, Miss Carousel/The time has come for leaving.”  There’s not much satisfaction to be had from the situation, but he proudly takes what he can, slamming the door on the ugly chapter and striding away with his dignity.

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