“It’s the first sad song I have ever written,” Natty Bumppo tells me.
What he was lacking was the occasion, and the Cubs just provided it. “The Cubs Is Dead” traffics in none of the usual solace. There’s no waiting ’til next year, which our sports desks are assuring us looks incredibly sweet. There’s no consolation in what a miraculous year this one was before the wheels came off.
The Cubs lost, say Bumppo’s lyrics. And don’t they always?
You can’t blame it on one billy goat;
It has more to do with the throat:
Not Steve Bartman, not Santo’s black cat,
The Cubs choke when they get close, that’s that!
That is harsh!
Here’s the whole sad song,
Bumppo is a lawyer, author, publisher, and banjoist operating out of Brownsville, Kentucky, I write about Bumppo when I can because that’ll give me something to share with James Fenimore Cooper if I run into him in heaven, and because Bumppo is an unusual personality. He was John Dean operating on the rim of the Sun-Times copy desk when I knew him back in the 70s. As I explained in this story I wrote almost three years ago (it was about something else, but I shoehorned Bumppo in), Dean wanted to be Bumppo and then he needed to be Bumppo, and so he became Bumppo.
Meanwhile, the Cubs remained the Cubs.
I questioned whether “The Cubs Is Dead” could possibly be the first sad song the rustic Bumppo ever wrote. He provided this back story:
Another local attorney asked me to write a song about the Cubs. “I don’t know how to write a sad song,” I said.
“What do ya mean?” asked my secretary, Jeanetta. “What about ‘Redneck Breakfast‘?”
“‘Redneck Breakfast’ is not a sad song,” I replied; “It’s a tragic song. And it’s funny.”
It’s about eating grits and biscuits as a poor sap who was in the wrong place at the wrong time gets strung up at dawn. They don’t say “Wait ’til next year” when they hang you.