It don’t worry me

Juli Kearns Art of Fiction, Cinema, Everyday Stories 2 Comments

Lance Mannion last week compared Kelly’s Heroes and MASH in a post at American Street, Kelly’s Heroes are my Heroes. Which also got some commentary here.

I ended up bringing up Nashville and thus got a pointer over to an Altman Blogfest that was occurring this past weekend. I didn’t participate as it’s difficult for me to break Altman down into nuggets, though the bits and pieces are what Altman excels at spying and draping threads between. If Nashville was geomtry only, all its threads and hubs would look like a Red Skelton stage after he was done with a wallpapering skit…

Another reason I didn’t feel like being involved in the Altman blogathon is that in UNENDING WONDERS OF A SUBATOMIC WORLD I expressly refer to Altman once, via Nashville, a song in the film mentioned. I only finished and published the book at the beginning of February and am still saturated with if, remain very much in its territory. It’s difficult for me to explain why I would consequently feel like I’m tiptoeing around a household in which a child is sleeping, but I do…

And when I think of Altman I think of that song and I tiptoe.

The song that I’d made reference to was, “It don’t worry me.”

In the movie, one of the many subplots is the story of Albuquerque who is determined to get a chance to sing in Nashville. We know little about her other than she is determined to sing, her husband is determined for her not to sing (one has to draw their own conclusions as to their relationship and why) and looking for an opportunity, during a traffic jam caused by a wreck, she bolts from the vehicle driven by her husband amd he spends the rest of the movie chasing after her. At film’s end, when the emotionally frail, exhausted Barbara Jean has been shot at the Parthenon, in the ensuing confusion–fans stunned, stars hustling for cover–gutsy Albuquerque ends up with the mic. She faces the audience and backed by a black Gospel group she belts out the anthem,

It don’t worry me, it don’t worry me. You may say that I ain’t free, but it don’t worry me.


Unsettling and puzzling. Seems a remark on self-occupied blinders or a unique kind of American nihilism, doesn’t it? And here is Albuquerque, stockings torn and hair dissheveled from being on the run, looking nothing like the ethereal Barbara Jean or her knockout rival in red. Would seem not at all a likely heir, but it’s she who gets the mic in a football-style fumble, faces the crowd and takes charge, revving quickly into this anthem with bold bravado.

It’s a salvation song, the chorus addressing the gods.

But everyone in the 70s was thinking of the 60s of course. Of the Kennedys and King in particular. Nashville captured people’s imaginations, seemed to make sense straight on but there was more to be had and that annoying more made the big seem-so assumptions seem too much assumption. One felt to catch what was really going on would be only out eye’s corner, in the way trickster spirits are glimpsed on the sly.

It don’t worry me, it don’t worry me. You may say that I ain’t free, but it don’t worry me.


In the novel I had always had Faith and Chance spend their first night at the Parthenon in Nashville (the book has been through several drafts with considerable changes each time as I fleshed out the story more). This had nothing to do with my own road trip to sort-of find the Great Penguin, though yes, a first stop was a visit to the pink Parthenon, a stop made only because of Altman’s Nashville. I didn’t spend the night there. It was an afternoon on a very Spring day, around this time of year. Sunny. Flowers were blooming while out west were brewing the blizzards we’d be driving into and chased by for most of the trip. My husband took a picture of me at the Parthenon. I was in my shades and jeans and a favorite orange amvet’s second hand store sweater that I’d picked up for a dollar, had already worn many years and it was on its last excursion. I was happy and smiling because I was at the Parthenon, standing on the sacred territory of that fuckin’ genius scene in which Barbara Jean was shot down and life’s-war-torn Albuquerque stepped forward with the chorus to address the gods.

It don’t worry me, it don’t worry me. You may say that I ain’t free, but it don’t worry me.


In the years ensuing the assassinations of the 60s and 70s, and Nashville, art and song paid a lot of attention to the psychology and shadow star role of the gun man, the captive slave and slayer of an ill and fading dream, but the new anthem is largely ignored or taken for granted, perhaps because it is so troublingly ambiguouus. Indeed, in Nashville the slayer was cloaked as an artist musician carrying around an instrument case. Nashville pays homage to a tradition of musical instruments changing into weapons, but of course there’s more to it, the movie taking place in Nashville and concerned with stars as well as a never-observed politician, whose face we never see and are jokingly told looks exactly like Connie White, Barbara Jean’s rival. His campaign vehicle rolls through the movie broadcasting his message, reminding of the pole-top speakers in MASH occasionally spitting and gurgling the messages of sky gods, directing action, commenting, offering presentiment.

The movie opens with one of Nashville’s stars singing the message of the invisible politician. Toward movie’s end, it is noted that n the park police control everything.

“I’m for doing some replacing,” is the politician’s message…

“I’ve discussed the Replacement Party…with people all over this country,and I’m often confronted with the statement, ‘I don’t want to get mixed up in politics,’ or ‘I’m tired of politics,’ or ‘I’m not interested.’ Almost as often someone says, ‘I can’t do anything about it anyway.’

“Let me point out two things. Number one: All of us are deeply involved with politics, whether we know it or not and whether we like it or not. And number two: We can do something about it…,My mother’s people came by ship and fought at Bunker Hill. My daddy lost a leg in France, I have his medals still. My brother served with Patton. I saw action in Algiers. Oh, we must be doin’ somethin’right to last years. I pray my sons won’t go to war but if they must, they must. I share our country’s motto and in God I place my trust… I’ve lived through two depressions and seven dust bowl droughts. Floods, locusts and tornadoes, but I don’t have any doubts. We’re all part of history. Why, Old Glory waves to show how far we’ve come along till now, how far we’ve got to go…It’s up to us to pave the way…”


Yes, American Politics but more. People can one day be absolutely certain that what has occurred in their lives is a meant-to-be that’s set in stone with the rigidity of Delphic oracle, and the next day be confident again in free will and self determination. I’ve met few who don’t vacillate back and forth.

I was thinking of Altman when I wrote the Parthenon scene which ends the first chapter. By the end of the next to last draft, I had stripped down the scene to a bare fewparagraphs, and then in the final version I decided to include a reference to the anthem. I don’t mention Altman or his movie directly. The reference to the anthem is enough. There is no reason to mention the movie because the book has nothing to do with the movie but has everything to do with the song.

Comments 2

  1. Odd, as a response to catching a glimpse of Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep doing a pretty good intro to the Altman award at the Oscars, I got a copy of Nashville from my local Hollywood video and watched it for the first time in years. I liked it better than ever. And thus the ending anthem has been running through my head since.

  2. I haven’t seen it in a while. Hard to believe I don’t own a copy. Need to get one. We keep piling up kid DVDs instead.

    Am looking forward to watching Nashville again. As with you, I imagine I like it better than ever.

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