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50 Greatest City, State, And Town Songs – #3: “Ellsworth” by Rascal Flatts

April 30, 2008

Me and My Gang50 Greatest City, State, And Town Songs: #3

“Ellsworth” by Rascal Flatts

Album: “Me And My Gang”

Chart Peak: #56 (from unsolicited airplay)

City, State, or Town: Ellsworth, Kansas

Rascal Flatts have become the biggest country music band in the new century of the genre. In addition to their countless awards and their continued dominance over the group awards from many organizations and the album charts both in and out of country music, they have become extreme activists when it comes to support songs towards diseases and tragedies. This has been shown in their Leukemia balled “Skin” and what can loosely be considered a suicide song in “What Hurts The Most”. They have used songs like “I Melt” and “Life Is A Highway” to break down musical barriers that have allowed many to follow. This song is no different. “Ellsworth” once again brought out the trio’s care and concern for a whole new group of tortured and suffering individuals in the world, Alzheimer’s patients. Through the use of powerful vocals and simple but effective songwriting this song brought goosebumps and tears to country fans everywhere who were privileged enough to hear it as an album cut through the story of a grandmother who begins to lose her short term memory only to reveal the one and only bright light in the issue, her recollection and peace in her past.

One of the biggest issues, and most sever, in today’s world is the disease known as Alzheimer’s. For those unfamiliar with it, it basically deteriorates the brain function of a person until they begin to lose all memory of a day’s events, then hour, then even minutes until they eventually begin to forget who they are and who the people around them are. They become, in one sentence, trapped within their own mind in a world oblivious to what is going on around them. This song doesn’t stray to the most extreme, but instead starts with the early signs of the disease inflicting the grandmother of the man that Gary becomes as the lead singer. We find out that the disease kicked in not long after losing the grandfather and that even though the grandmother’s memory is now fading, her long term memory remains in tact. This is one of the few bright lights in the issue. Although the victims forget their recent encounters, the tend to relive and recall their happier memories. Thus it is said that although the people near them feel pain for their suffering, the patients don’t even realize anything’s wrong.

The song begins as the grandmother begins to show signs of the disease. Gary takes the persona of the grandson and narrates the events occurring from both memory and first person perspective. He begins by recalling how his grandmother had tried to cook biscuits and nearly burnt her house down having forgotten they were in the oven. This resulted on her being transferred to assisted living to help cope with her newly effective forgetfulness. He also recalls her losing her ability to drive and her sense of direction as he recalls her feeling lost and confused on I-65. She had forgotten where she was and where she was going, which made her to dangerous to drive or even be alone in travel through any means from that point on. Despite the fact that his grandmother in fading away, or at least her mind is, he returns to the present and explains how now anyone who brings up grandpa gives her the one thing she can remember.

The second verse feeds into this by addressing her acts as her disease continues. Gary’s character explains how his grandmother takes out pictures and letters that remind her of her love. This reveals the one thing that remains constant despite her fading state of mind. She finds happiness and security in the medals and pictures that her husband used to own. it is also revealed that the disease really kicked in not long after the grandfather’s death. It is possible that her failing state of mind opened the door for the disease to progress. However, as much as she misses him and pains from her loss, the disease allows her to revisit her younger days and feel 17 again right beside the man she loves.

Both verses bring into shifting storyline within the chorus that represent the joy and painlessness that comes with the grandmother’s condition. The first chorus revisits that day that the grandfather proposed. of course this has to have been one of the happiest days of his fiances life and now it is a significant and happy moment that her lack of current memory has allowed her to relive. The second chorus revisits that same year, 1948, in a more high school oriented surrounding that shows more of a connection of love and enjoyments between the two. The grandmother relives her high school years and her happiest and earliest moments with her husband. The connection between all of this is stated in the one common line in both chorus’, “Tomorrow she won’t remember what she did today/ But just ask about Ellsworth, Kansas 1948”. Despite her fading condition and her disease, the grandmother is able to revisit her early days in Ellsworth and see her husband again back in 1948.

The final part of the song is another take on the chorus which ultimately states the point that Rascal Flatts tries to make in “Ellsworth”. As the world fades around her and her memory becomes deteriorated and dissolved, she pictures herself with the man she loves again. She relives those happy moments that take away any pain that could be caused by her illness. She may be forgetting the day, the time, the year, and even the people around her, but the one thing that keeps her from falling away completely is the thought of her husband. She begins to think she lives back in Ellsworth in 1948 and, in her own mind, sees her memory as reality because actual reality is fading away.

The boys of Rascal Flatts don’t try to point out any bright sides to the Alzheimer’s illness in this song. There is no bright side to such a destructive disease. They mean to use the song as a way of easing mental pain on the loved ones of those inflicted. While those behind the scenes are suffering they want them to understand the patient really isn’t. They have no realization that there is anything wrong and in a way they return to happier and more peaceful times. They may not remember now, but it is then that keeps them clinging to this world. The boys of Rascal Flatts have always been great at bringing out the power and emotion behind the lyrics of a song. This is by far one of their best and most important performances. it allows those suffering fro the reality of this disease and those who have never known someone inflicted to understand more about the lack of pain and the peace that the ill go through. Rascal Flatts allows for a little peace of mind and a very significant understanding of Alzheimer’s through the story of a grandmother inflicted with the disease and, while she is losing touch with reality, she is revisiting her younger days in Ellsworth, Kansas and re-experiencing the happiest moments with the biggest love of her life.

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Drew permalink
    November 27, 2008 11:29 pm

    Wow, I like this song, but putting it this high is a little absurd. It wasn’t even a single and tons of die-hard country fans don’t even know the song, whereas tracks like “Okie From Muskogee”, “Luckenbach, Texas” and “Amarillo By Morning” are absolute staples of country music. Good list, but I think a little bit of perspective needs to be injected into the debate here.

  2. May 16, 2013 11:04 am

    google law firm

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