David was fifty-six years old when he wrote this song, this lament.  Soon to be fifty-seven.  A young man reads what’s obvious in it, but an old man, and man in his late fifties, his children grown, his wife a familiar friend by now—would read it different.  And that’s what’s not obvious in it.  What’s missing—the wife, the woman, the familiar friend.  What’s not obvious in it is the sleight of hand, the distraction.  Because sexuality is not the issue here.  That’s an issue of youth, the lament of youth.  What maybe David captures in tongue of cheek, in sarcasm, as a man not really concerned with sex or sexual orientation, the sexual satisfaction of a woman, but an old man mourning a friend, and not a male friend—a woman friend.  It’s the lament of an old man mourning a male friend losing a woman friend.  Drawing attention to the vulnerability—a young man just reading it with the wrong head.  Men of a certain age don’t need that kind of external validation anymore. That sexual validation. They don’t need this form of proof from a woman anymore, or from anybody for that matter.  That’s not really a concern, and David drawing attention to it, his anger and sadness, his questioning, is merely misdirection.  A hat trick drawing your attention away from the real problem. 

Johnny Tribout was close to retirement when his wife divorced him.  For years it had been his work.  His role as man, as a husband and a father—to provide.  And then that was taken away from him.  His purpose was taken away from him.  His wife’s accusations the claims of a woman feeling second best.  A woman feeling her man loved something more than her.  Not another man—that’s misdirection—but his work.  And maybe this happens over a given length of time.  It happens when you lose yourself in a role.  They were a man and woman who lost themselves in the roles they came to play as a married couple, as husband and wife, as a father and mother.  Roles they assumed because they thought that’s what they had to do, but everything got mixed up and they forgot the vows that brought them together.  What once was was no longer, and what they had now was almost like a staring contest where they went looking for what had already died.  And when the anger was over—the mad feelings involved in a break-up—it’s easy to get lost remembering what once was and not what it is now.  The momentum is lost, the only wind in your sails the renewed venom felt between two lovers now at war.  But that soon ends, the war ends, and despair sets in.  And that’s where Johnny Tribout found himself when during a phone call with his ex-wife he sensed her unemotional detachment.  She was no longer angry, no longer vengeful, giving him the renewed energy to defend himself.  She just didn’t care, and this hurt Johnny the most.  After all those years with a woman he now sensed he meant nothing to her.  There was no fight left to love himself.  And so he doused himself with rubbing alcohol and lit a match.

After the war, after he and David split up and stopped playing music together, Johnny took a steady job for a life insurance company.  Not in Alabama, where he was from, but in David’s hometown—in East St. Louis, his wife from there—they met accidently at a winery where Johnny performed gigs on the side, at a wedding reception in a small rural town in central Illinois, this after Johnny took a  train north to escape questioning in the murder of Popovitch and Bethany’s first husband in New Orleans in the fall of 1946, a botched drug deal with David to blame, Johnny left with a scar on his neck from his involvement in it.  David urging him to escape and suggesting where he go.  She liked his music and that’s how they met, but it wasn’t his music that enabled them to marry.  It was him holding a steady job.  White people still lived in East St. Louis then, before the massive urban fires razed entire neighborhoods in the late 70’s.  He and his new wife bought a house and had their first of two daughters after only a year of marriage.  He worked for the next twenty-five years, and it became his life, his world.  The music he once played with David becoming just a harmless hobby, a way to make a few extra bucks now and then.  His wife no longer listening to him as he played.  That passion he once felt, that youthful entanglement with Nina before the war, forgotten except in occasional dreams brought about by bad digestion.  His work became everything, and then the rug was pulled out from under him, but when he turned to his family it was like it was no longer there.  The insurance company he worked for went bankrupt from the misappropriation of funds, the revenues on premiums not enough to cover death disbursements.  And his wife had become bored after their children began high school, young girls learning things on their own now and no longer needing or wanting her attention.  By then they had assumed roles that really didn’t include each other even though they had assumed them in good faith.  So when he lost his job he lost his role, and she didn’t have the role anymore to support him.  He lost his retirement and pretty soon they were broke.  And so he lost his wife.  The accusations, the arguments, just a matter of course, the icing on the cake—finances being the real reason for their estrangement.  It’s what became obvious in what they had lost long before this.

Something happens to a man when his purpose is taken away, when his work is taken away, his children, his family.  And you must be fair here.  You must be fair to his wife.  Her world was taken away too.  And it’s really a common story, with common themes, the basis of an episode you might see on Oprah.   Because it’s not really about the money.  It’s about the stuff.  The stuff money buys that replaces living over time.  It replaces the love that brought two people together, and over time you just grow comfortable in it.  And at their age, at the age they were by then, Johnny and his wife, it’s hard to accept being uncomfortable again.  It’s hard to start over again.  And that’s the situation where Johnny Tribout found himself.  The situation where his wife found herself.  She just wanted things to be simple again.  She wanted a house with a back lawn—a simple life.  People kill themselves when they feel there’s no hope and they’re afraid to start over.  And that’s what happened to Johnny Tribout.  His wife not really a bad woman, it’s just that women don’t kill themselves when they feel like they need to start over.  They instead try to kill whatever impedes them from it.  The power in a fading relationship going to whoever cares about it less.  But power isn’t happiness.  And as for Johhny Tribout’s suicide all I can say is found something in it.  I found something in David Threnody’s response to it, a story of what that friendship meant to him, and in my research I found a statement given by Johnny Tribout’s eldest daughter to the police after his death.  He killed himself on his birthday.  The following transcript a record of it.  It perhaps explains better than I can the awful truth of what happened:

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