Album: Seven Year Ache
. . .
It’s not easy being the scion of a bona fide legend. Over the years, we’ve watched folks like Jakob Dylan, Julian Lennon and Ziggy Marley have some initial successes, and maybe even careers, but still not escape the shadow cast by their parents. Not so with Roseanne Cash, who has pretty much escaped the orbit of her legendary father and sustained a career for 40 years, putting albums in the Country top 10 off and on since 1981 — most recently in 2014.
Her breakthrough was the self-penned “Seven Year Ache,” the title track to her third album, and a tune that more than held its own with the Merle Haggard and Tom Petty songs that it rubbed shoulders with on the album.
“Seven Year Ache” opened with a melancholy synthesizer hook played by none other than Booker T Jones and a piano-driven rhythm that owed as much to rock ‘n’ roll
— the bassline is a cousin to John McVie’s in Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” — as it did to classic country beats, and anchored by Cash’s big, sad voice singing about a dude on the prowl.
You act like you were just born tonight
Face down in a memory but feeling all right
So who does your past belong to today?
Baby, you don’t say nothing when you’re feeling this way
The girls in the bars thinking, “who is this guy?”
But they don’t think nothing when they’re telling you lies
You look so careless when they’re shooting that bull
Don’t you know heartaches are heroes when their pockets are full?
That opening verse is followed by an absolutely lovely and memorable chorus, Cash’s vocals augmented by harmony vocals but still front and center the entire time.
Tell me you’re trying to cure a seven-year ache
See what else your old heart can take
The boys say, “when is he gonna give us some room?”
The girls say, “God, I hope he comes back soon”
I’ve always assumed that “seven year ache” was basically another take on the classic trope of the “seven year itch” but twisted around to both more sad and more haunting, especially since you can get temporary relief from an inch, but an ache can last forever. I do know this: because my dad listened to a lot of country radio in the early 1980s, I heard more of it than you might expect, and “Seven Year Ache” didn’t really sound like any of it, especially during the instrumental break, which juxtaposed Booker T’s synth with the more classic steel guitars you’d expect.
That said, “Seven Year Ache” sounded enough like early 1980s country to be her first #1 Country song — the first of several throughout the decade — and even crossed over to the pop charts, making it up to #22, the only time she ever crossed over. It was also definitely a turning point for her career: the point where she fully established her own identity as a recording artist.
“Seven Year Ache”
“Seven Year Ache” (Official Video)
“Seven Year Ache” live in 1987
“Seven Year Ache” live in 2012
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