He used to send me messages in the middle of the night. Emails. Both of us couldn't sleep. I didn’t sleep much for a year back then, and Mickey was dying. He'd talk to me about my record, "The Man From God Knows Where," and what it meant to him. I'd tell him how much I loved his songs. He was the master of the middle tempo ballad. "San Francisco Mabel Joy," and "She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye." ("Baby's packed her soft things and she's leavin'…..") Killer songs and sentiments. A lot of rain between the grooves. You can trot out words like "deep" and "dark" and "chilling," but they're cheap little tools to describe great songs. We shouldn't try. We should listen. There was a newer one that I'd play over and over: "Nights When I Am Sane." ("My moments of insanity are never like a chain, I only know I am not free, the nights when I am sane….") Man, I hear that. I'm right with that. And then the killer, final nail in the coffin: "I'm just one man, Lord, sometimes I wish I were three…. I'd take a forty-four pistol to me… Put one in my brain, for her memory, and one more in my heart…then I would be free.") Few of us would have the guts to write like that. Love and insanity and what it does to people. Us people. Us.
No, I never met Mickey Newbury in person, but we passed a few lines back and forth in the middle of the night. When we both couldn’t sleep. After he passed away, his daughter wrote and told me that Mickey had kept "The Man From God Knows Where" by his bedside up there in Oregon. That meant more to me than ever shaking his hand. I'll keep "Nights When I am Sane" close to the bed. I'll think of Mickey on those long winter nights when sleep doesn’t come easy, and the wind pushes the mesquite trees against the windows. It's just Mickey sending me a line or two. ("What will I do, in the dead of the night....when she turns out the lights..." Mickey Newbury)