Jim Dalling’s Pop Psychology November 6, 1978

As a counsellor in Downtown Dartmouth I frequently meet people dealing with anxiety. Some traditions of therapy believe that all anxiety has a basis in a fear of death.

This week I feature a song that deals with just this notion. Sure it was at #84 on the charts. And some songs have such wisdom that I won’t leave them out.

The song in question? The Gambler as sung by Kenny Rogers

Such rich imagery in the lyrics:

On a warm summers evening on a train bound for nowhere

HOLY CRAP WHO THE HELL GETS ON A TRAIN BOUND FOR NOWHERE?

Wait a second… That’s a metaphor for our feeble existence! Sweet! I dig it!  Hell yeah! Existentialist country music!

Really this song is so rich. The basic part speaks to something my clients and I deal with daily:

‘Cause every hand’s a winner And every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for is to die In your sleep

Essentially, half of our life is loss. Period. Everything that comes into our lives, we will eventually lose. Including our lives. So essentially, our whole lives are a preparation for death. Liberating for some, depressing for others. Either way, Kenny sang it beautifully:

Full lyrics here:

On a warm summer’s eve On a train bound for nowhere
I met up with the gambler We were both too tired to sleep
So we took turns a-starin’ Out the window at the darkness
The boredom overtook us, And he began to speak

He said, “Son, I’ve made a life Out of readin’ people’s faces
Knowin’ what the cards were By the way they held their eyes
So if you don’t mind me sayin’ I can see you’re out of aces
For a taste of your whiskey I’ll give you some advice”

So I handed him my bottle And he drank down my last swallow
Then he bummed a cigarette And asked me for a light
And the night got deathly quiet And his face lost all expression
He said, “If you’re gonna play the game, boy
You gotta learn to play it right

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away And know when to run
You never count your money When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for counting When the dealin’s done

Every gambler knows That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner And every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for is to die In your sleep

And when he finished speakin’ He turned back toward the window
Crushed out his cigarette And faded off to sleep
And somewhere in the darkness The gambler he broke even
But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em (when to hold ’em)
Know when to fold ’em (when to fold ’em)
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done

Kenny is just too spicy for me to add any other songs this week.

 

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