I guess I should start this more personally, as in . . . Dear Lady in the Front Row,
Wow! What a view we both had back in the ’70s! Sometimes the band told me they enjoyed your show as much as they did mine, so I guess we all were putting on the best show we could. But this letter is not just to you— it’s to the whole audience, and to all the audiences. You know who you are. And I want you to know I love you.
Dear Audience, we’re all in this together. None of it hap-pens without you. There’s no going “On the Road Again” and no singing “Whiskey River” to shouts and cheers unless you’re there, waiting for me to get off the bus and on the stage. Those lyrics to “On the Road Again” aren’t just a jingle. I really do love my life of making music with my friends. When I’ve been home a little too long and start saying hello to the walls, everyone knows I can’t wait to get back on the road.
When I come onstage, I want you to be happy about it. I kick off the show with “Whiskey River” so we’ll all know the party has started. I can’t see the faces in the back, but I know you’re there, so as I sing those opening verses, I’m looking to catch the eyes of the audience down front. I see you now. And I’m going to sing to you all night.
When you look into my eyes, I want you to see how glad I am to be with you. I want you to listen to my voice and feel my love for music, for my songs, and for you. Our exchange is contagious in all the best ways. As we lift each other up, we lift up those around us. A wave of energy flows out from me to my band and to you. And a wave flows out from you to the crowd around you and reaches farther and farther out, all the way to the back row, then back to me.
We’re all together now, and there’s a straightforward bar-gain between us. You’ve paid to hear me play, and it’s my job to entertain you, to make you happy about having bought that ticket. When I sing, “Who’ll Buy My Memories?” I’m singing right to you and hoping you’ll turn my songs into memories of your own. We call it the Family Band, but the truth is, even though I don’t know your names, you’re my family too. You’re all the girls I’ve loved before. We’re all a Band of Brothers.
So, dear Audience, in the form of that lady in the front row, think of this as my mash note to the girl at the school desk in front of me. I can’t dip your pigtails in an inkwell, but I love you yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
I love that my songs have meaning for you, often a personal meaning that touches you deeply. When I sing “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” I can feel your connections to the song. And I trust that you can feel me too.
One thing I’ve learned from a life in music is that if you love someone, you’d better say it while they can hear you. So let me say it now: I love the way you’ve stood by me through the years, the way you’ve stood through the rain and through the cold and through the burning Texas sun at my Fourth of July picnics. I love the way you welcomed us to every city, town, and hamlet, to every stadium, concert hall, and two- bit juke joint in America and the world. And I plan on seeing you all soon.
You know where to find me. When I come onstage, I’ll be happy to see your smiling faces. I’m gonna give you a wave, a wink, and a smile. Then I’m gonna pick up my guitar, step to the microphone, and start my show the way I always do, with a few sharp strums on the strings and the words that lead to “You’re all I got, take care of me.”