Tom T. Hall – I Like Beer
Country music was a big part of my early listening. Children don’t have a lot of control over, well, pretty much anything in their lives, and music is no exception. My parents listened to country music, so that’s what I listened to. It wasn’t all I heard – my younger uncles played Beatles records when we saw them, and there was other music on the radio and television – but I mostly remember my parents’ records.
There was Merle Haggard, and Charley Pride, and the Statler Brothers, and Conway Twitty, and George Jones, and there must have been some women, too, but for the life of me I can’t remember who. Pride was my favourite (especially “Crystal Chandelier” and “The Snakes Crawl at Night” – also, fuck COVID), but I loved the gentle humour of the Statlers, and Jones’ “The Race is On” is an all-time favourite. And then there was Tom T. Hall.
I can’t say for certain that my parents had one of his records, but that’s my recollection. And if they did, it probably wasn’t 1975’s “I Wrote A Song About It”, which this song first appeared on. But when Hall died last month, there was one song and one song only that immediately came to mind. I pulled it up on Spotify and, a bit to my surprise since I probably hadn’t heard it in over 40 years, I dragged the chorus from the deepest recesses of memory and began singing along:
I like beer, it makes me a jolly good fellow
I like beer, it helps me unwind and sometimes it makes me feel mellow
Whiskey’s too rough, champagne costs too much, vodka puts my mouth in gear
This little refrain should help me explain as a matter of fact I like beer
If that isn’t four perfect lines, I don’t know what is.
It’s the second-most streamed Hall song on Spotify (we’re coming for you, “That’s How I Got to Memphis”!), but his biggest hit was one he wrote but didn’t sing, “Harper Valley P.T.A.”. That song earned him a Grammy nomination for best song in a field that included “Hey Jude” and “Mrs. Robinson”, all of them somehow losing to this. Yes, the Grammys have always sucked.
Anyway, Hall was a master. He could nail a song like “I Love”, with its simple statement of life’s little joys, building to the powerful declaration in the chorus. But give me the jaunty pleasures of “I Like Beer” every time.