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Casey's Gone

Bill Sunkel
Bill & Rob Sunkel



This song is about loss, and the effect it has on the way we perceive the world around us. 

I should start out by saying that, the way I see it, pain is good.  Just as (I submit that) hate is not the opposite of love (apathy is the opposite of love), pain is not the opposite of pleasure.  For so long as you are capable of feeling pain, there is the potential to feel pleasure; so long as you have the ability to experience sorrow, you have the possibility of knowing joy.  It’s only when some part of you has died – physically, spiritually or emotionally – that it cannot feel pain.  Pain is a sign that whatever part of you is hurting is still vital, still alive.  Ergo, pain is good.

“Casey” is about the emotional open wound that accompanies significant loss.  Because our psychological/spiritual skin has been broken, we are exposed to our surroundings in a way that (for most of us) doesn’t often occur when we are intact and whole.  An analogy may be instructive:  Imagine a drop of water falling on your finger, or air moving across your hand.  Under ordinary circumstances, you barely notice it.  But have an open cut on that hand or finger, and the sensation is profound; neither the tiniest drop, nor the gentlest breeze, escapes your attention.  You feel it.

And so it is with emotional cuts.  When we suffer them, we become vulnerable and open in a way that allows us to see that which we had not seen before, to sense that the world is speaking to us, to perceive our surroundings with heightened sensitivity and awareness.  Most who have experienced the loss of a loved one know the feeling:  In the aftermath, we continue to feel that person’s presence, to imagine that he or she is communicating with us, guiding us, sending us signs.  For me, the message of “Casey” is that the universe is always attempting to communicate with us, but only when we are psychologically, emotionally and/or spiritually ready – often, as the result of a devastating loss – are most of us actually capable of perceiving those messages.

If all this sounds like new age nonsense to you, that’s fine; I’m usually a pretty logical, rational agent myself, and I’m not entirely comfortable with these concepts, either.  But I will tell you that every image in this song is exactly as I experienced it, catalyzed by great loss.  That the song is monologue is clear from the outset; the lines of communication are down, there’s no quick fix in sight, and the singer is essentially talking to himself, trying to process what he is experiencing:  “There’s so much I need to tell you/But I guess it has to keep/’Cause the lines are down/And the lineman’s fast asleep.”  (The “lineman” metaphor is an homage to one of my favorite songwriters, Jimmy Webb, as well as to Glen Campbell.)  I really did sit in that “theatre in the dark” and feel the “ghost” of a long-dead songwriter (Bert Berns) speaking to me (“The song man stole pieces of my heart”).  And that same night, when I left the theatre, the wind did indeed “whip[] like it never did before,” causing me to envision my own death, and to question my life’s direction.  The movement in each verse from the “macro” (universal) to the “micro” (personal) is a trick cadged from yet another great American songwriter, Paul Simon, who often moved from the external to the internal in his lyrics. 

I hope this song speaks to you, as it does to me, on a core emotional level.  And if it does, I am truly sorry for your loss, whatever it may be.


There’s so much I need to tell you
But I guess it has to keep
’Cause the lines are down
And the lineman’s fast asleep
I never felt so sad
As the way I do today
Never walked so all alone
Since Casey’s gone away
I never felt this empty
I never knew such pain
Outside the sky is blue
Inside there’s only rain
I sat in that theatre in the dark
As the song man stole pieces of my heart
And I never felt quite the way I feel
And no ghost ever seemed so very real
I suppose I could don my old disguise
But she always saw through me with those eyes
Still, I know there’s much more I might have done
But it’s too late now because my Casey’s gone
And I never felt so sad . . .
I wish I could tell you what it means
But last night as I stepped into the street
The wind whipped like it never did before
And I saw my body lying on the floor
Though this hope in my heart may be pretend
That the page we have turned is not The End
Still, I pray for the strength to carry on
In a cold, silent place where Casey’s gone
And I never felt so sad . . .