Song of the Week – “Why Georgia” (2001)

In 2003 my wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Providentially, her doctor discovered the cancer very early on and so my wife had her thyroid removed and has been cancer-free ever since. Thank God for attentive primary-care physicians, skilled surgeons, and modern medicine.

A few months after the surgery I decided to take my wife to Kansas City for a weekend away. Just the two of us alone as we left our two girls with the grandparents. It was a sort of a post-cancer surgery celebration of the fact that my wife was alive, recovering, and had been given an excellent prognosis going forward.

As is our custom on nearly all trips to Kansas City, we spent a fair amount of time with my brother (who lives in KC). While driving around one night he asked, “Hey, have you guys ever heard John Mayer’s music?” At the time we had not and so my brother proceeded to play for us Mayer’s latest (at the time) album Room for Squares. Immediately my wife and I became fans and the song “Why Georgia” shot to the top of my list of all-time great driving songs.

Fast-forward to this past week when I spent many hours in a rental car traveling to and from Monroe, Louisana with my two oldest daughters. We were on the road because I had been hired to play bass in a jazz trio at an outdoor event. My daughters were both coming off of a hectic show week from their high school music (not to be confused with High School Musical) and so much of their time in the car was spent catching up on sleep. So I was alone with the driving and my iPod full of music. Not surprisingly, I found myself coming back again and again to the primo driving music that is Mayer’s Room For Squares, and “Why Georgia” in particular.

“Why Georgia” even begins with a lyric that makes it clear that cruising along in an automobile is exactly what Mayer had in mind when he wrote the song.

I am driving up 85 in the
Kind of morning that lasts all afternoon
Just stuck inside the gloom

Mayer then expresses a feeling that most of us have felt at one time or another.

Four more exits to my apartment but
I am tempted to keep the car in drive
And leave it all behind

The reason for Mayer’s desire to “keep the car in drive and leave it all behind?”

Cause I wonder sometimes
About the outcome
Of a still verdictless life

The song’s chorus is one of the pieces of power pop perfection that Mayer seems to nail almost without effort.

Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Why, why Georgia, why?

The song’s second verse picks up and expand upon Mayer’s life, a life full of stuff but very little else. This verse also contains Mayer’s now-famous turn of phrase about a “quarter life crisis.”

I rent a room and I fill the spaces with
Wood in places to make it feel like home
But all I feel’s alone
It might be a quarter life crisis
Or just the stirring in my soul.

Still, Mayer wonders about the verdict being out on the choices he’s made.

Either way I wonder sometimes
About the outcome
Of a still verdictless life

The song’s bridge finds Mayer admitting that, even though he wears a smile, he is quietly suspicious about the direction his life has taken.

So what, so I’ve got a smile on
But it’s hiding the quiet superstitions in my head
Don’t believe me
Don’t believe me
When I say I’ve got it down

In the song’s final verse, Mayer lets the listener know that he knows what is really at the heart of his “quarter life crisis.” He has “gone his own way” to the point where he has alienated almost everyone else in his life.

Everybody is just a stranger but
That’s the danger in going my own way
I guess it’s the price I have to pay
Still “everything happens for a reason”
Is no reason not to ask myself

Am I living it right?

Great songs never get old and it is great to see this song still giving me so much joy so many years after hearing it for the first time. It was the perfect soundtrack for driving around Kansas City with my wife and the perfect soundtrack for driving through the backwoods of Arkansas with the two daughters we left with the grandparents during that earlier trip.

“Song of the Week” is a regular Friday feature in which I discuss one song that has been repeatedly played on my iPod throughout the last seven days. And by “iPod” I really do mean iPod. My 16 GB fifth generation iPod Nano has been chugging along fine for years and goes with me wherever I go.

I gratefully acknowledge the influence of three different blogs upon my “Song of the Week” posts: Jeff Meshel’s World and his song of the week posts.  the “one track mind” posts at the Something Else! website, and the “death by power ballad” posts by Rob Smith at the Popdose site.