I may have already told this story before but it may be worth telling again…

Not long after Bethany and I got married, I was driving home from work one day and stopped by one of local music stores. While looking around I saw a CD called “Live In the X-Lounge.” Our local Progressive music station was called “The X” and this was an album of in studio performances by a number of artists who had come through town. I bought the album without thinking twice.

It was a great album and I wish I still had it. But there was one song that stood out enough for Bethany and I to drive around on a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks later looking for an album by the artist of that song.

“Tony” by Patty Griffin was one of the most powerful songs I’d ever heard. And it still is. It’s painful too. And I know of more than one person who has trouble listening to it. One look at the lyrics will explain why:

Does anyone remember Tony 
A quiet boy, little overweight 
He had breasts like a girl 
When I wasn’t too busy feeling lonely 
I’d stare over his shoulder 
At a map of the world 


He always finished all his homework 
Raised his hand in homeroom 
He called the morning attendance 
With the pledge allegience to the gloom 


Hey Tony, what’s so good about dying 
I think I might do a little dying today 
He looked in the mirror and saw 
A little faggot starin’ back at him 
Pulled out a gun and blew himself away 


I hated every day of high school 
It’s funny, I guess you did too 
It’s funny how I never knew 
There I was sitting right behind you 


They wrote it in the local rag 
Death comes to the local fag 
I guess you finally stopped believing 
That any hope would ever find you 
Well I know that story, I was sitting right behind you 


Hey Tony, what’s so good about dying 
He said I think I might do a little dying today 
He looked in the mirror and saw 
A little faggot starin’ back at him 
Pulled out a gun and blew himself away 


Hey Tony whats so good about dying, dying 
Hey Tony whats so good about dying, dying 


Hey Tony, what’s so good about dying 
He said I think I might do a little dying today 
He looked in the mirror and saw 
A little faggot starin’ back at him 
Pulled out a gun and blew himself away 
Pulled out a gun and blew himself away 
Pulled out a gun and blew himself away Tony…

I actually did hate every day of High School. And so I was lonely enough to get it. But I also dished it out and probably caused a great deal of loneliness in my insecurity. Like Patty I was so wrapped up in myself I never even noticed the loneliness around me.

It is no exaggeration to say this song had a profound effect on me. Not only have I not stopped listening to her music 12 years later but I’m not sure anything other thing, humanly speaking, had more of an effect on me going to into youth ministry. No matter where I went we, as a youth group, listened to this song and discussed it. In my wake I think I left a wake of not a few fans. And hopefully a little compassion for the lonely too.

Two versions of Tony below. The first is Live from the X-Lounge. The second is the studio version. Enjoy this painful and profound song.

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