Earlier today I received the sad news via Twitter that country music singer Slim Whitman had died. He lived to be 90, which is pretty impressive, and he left behind some of my favorite country music.
Although I can’t say for certain, my first encounter with his material was most likely in the movie Mars Attacks!, in which his amazing falsetto plays a very important role in something very spoilery. (If you’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing Tim Burton’s hilarious science-fiction alien invasion movie, you should watch it right now. Sorry I’m always telling you what to do, but you should.)
The next time I heard Slim Whitman’s music was in Andy Kaufman: The Midnight Special, in which an awestruck Andy Kaufman stares at Slim through a performance of “I Remember You.” After the song, Andy and Slim take part in a subtly hilarious exchange during which Andy tries to learn Slim’s falsetto technique. Between his incredible voice and this hard evidence that he is a very good sport, it’d be hard not to love Slim.
Most memorably (and most importantly, although the more devout Mars Attacks! fans may argue this point), Carrie and I danced our first dance as husband and wife to Slim Whitman’s “Indian Love Call,” probably the best song for any couple’s first dance. (No offense, everyone who isn’t us.)
There’s something very endearing about his music that is hard to articulate. Even if he’s singing a sad song, it makes me feel good just because he is singing. People always call him a yodeler, which he is, but there’s more to him. His delivery and technique are unique; his music is sincere without being sappy. Really, he seems like a very nice guy who just happens to be musically talented.
Although I haven’t listened to all of his recordings – I’m currently listening to his last record, Twilight On The Trail (2010) – I’ll be forever thankful for the body of work he left behind.
Here’s a good quality transfer of his performance on Andy Kaufman: The Midnight Special: