Though not a number one hit for Kathy Mattea, ‘Where’ve You Been’, reached the number 10 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles. It has a moving and poetic piece that follows a couple, Claire and Edwin, from their engagement to the end of their lives. The most powerful and best verse of the song is,
“Now they’re in a hospital in separate beds on different floors
Claire soon lost her memory, forgot the names of family
She never spoke a word again then one day they wheeled him in
He held her hand and stroked her hair
In a fragile voice she said,
‘Where’ve you been? I’ve looked for you forever and a day.
Where’ve you been? I’m just not myself when you’re away.”
Who are Edwin and Claire?
“Where’ve you been?”
That question shadows a married couple through a 60-year love story. Kathy’s husband, Jon Vezner, and fellow Nashville songwriter, Don Henry, co-wrote the song. Over its course, two lovers meet, get married and spend 60 years together. In the final verse, both are in the hospital. The wife can longer remember names of her family members. But one day, when the husband takes her hand, she asks again, “Where’ve you been?”
Jon wrote the song about his grandparents saying it came from a similar experience he had with his grandparents in the hospital. He was the guy that wheeled his grandfather around his grandmother’s bed in the hospital. He picked up her hand and stroked her hair and kept saying,
“Look at them hair, nobody has hair like Grandma.”
She just looked at him and finally, she goes, “Where have you been?” It was the first thing she said in six weeks. That was the line that struck Jon to write the song.
Why Kathy Didn’t Feel Like Recording It
A song he wrote for his wife who primarily declined to record it, saying it would be too difficult to sing in concerts without crying. Co-writers Jon Vezner and Don Henry tried to pitch the song all around Nashville. Everyone loved the song, but no one desired to record it. In the end, Kathy Mattea finally conceded and recorded the song the way it had originally been presented to her. It was a simple guitar, piano, and upright bass arrangement. She remembered,
“When Jon told me the story for the first time, it was before we had even gotten engaged, and he just cried and cried. When he played the song for me and the first chorus came around, I knew where he was going with the lyric, and I just couldn’t believe he could be that vulnerable as a writer, to put that moment in a song.”
Here’s a really sad yet inspiring song Kathy Mattea and her husband, Jon Vezner, made together. Such awe when you know that they did it for someone close to their hearts. Listen to the song and imagine that hospital scene. Don’t forget to share with your friends.