“The Thrill Is Gone”

Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell wrote it in 1951. Roy recorded it that year with moderate success on the Rhythm and Blues Charts — long before R&B became some throat and lung exercises in excess. Then B.B. King took it to the top and then off the charts with his 1969 cover.

When i hear it, and that is frequently because i find it and play it, i often think it was likely what a number of dear women in my life thought of me.

This morning when i played it again, i wasn’t thinking about lost loves. i was thinking about how the short sentence applies to aging — Remember, “sentence” has two basic meanings.

You see, up until i finally gave in and accepted i wasn’t young anymore, i was a thrill seeker, even though i didn’t think of myself in that way. i was looking to be thrilled, awed, blown away. i wanted to dance the fastest dance. I wanted to drive the fastest car (and there could have been others, but the car Daddy bought when i was rolling into 16, the 1958 Pontiac Star Chief with the biggest engine GM built underneath three two-barrel carburetors was damn close to the fastest on the road). i wanted to date the prettiest girls. As a linebacker, i wanted to take on the biggest, meanest runner. I wanted watch the raciest movies. I wanted to go to the biggest concert, watch the loudest and biggest fireworks show, and live in the biggest cites, and be those cities’ biggest star.

i was looking for the thrill of it all.

i continued looking for thrills, traveling the furthest i could go, seeing all the wonders that i saw, living wild most of the time until i grew up (or at least until i thought i grew up: there are moments when i am still not sure if i have actually grown up, you know).

This morning, i awoke. I did not rise from the bed as is my habit. i was awake, wide awake. i just felt comfortable, in neutral, no pressure, just lying there, quiet, peace, calm. Nowadays, we only turn on the heat in our house for a couple of hours to knock the chill off after we wake up. At night, the heat is off. This time of year, it will often get down to the low 60’s in the house. We like it that way, enjoy fresh air, like covers while we sleep. It was around 61 when i awoke. But it wasn’t the chill that kept me there in bed. i get up in that kind of chill until late March when Southwest corner real weather marches in and claims the next four months. My continuing to lie there was…well, it wasn’t looking for thrills.

Now i look for comfort, quieter music, walking not running, golf not football, old friends not seeking new ones, memories warm, peace not clamor. i revel in how Maureen’s and my relationship has matured, gotten deeper, richer. Politics, news have been excluded. i do not wish to be amazed at what children do now-a-days. Hell, i don’t even want to know what so called adults are doing.

i am in a comfortable place.

A couple of years ago, i told someone special and important to me that Peggy Lee had nailed it. Actually, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller nailed it. They wrote the song, “Is That All There Is,?” that Peggy sang nailing it — amazingly, these two are the guys who wrote most of the Coaster’s hits like “Searching,” “Young Blood,” and perhaps my favorite, “Idol With the Golden Head.”

But i was wrong about that song and Peggy and Jerry and Mike nailing it. For me, the nail that was hit was created by Hawkins and Darnell.

The song is pure, pure blues, almost agony triumphed, sad. For an old man, the thrill being gone is not a bad thing.

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