I spent a week or so with my grandparents in the spring of 1977 when my sister was born. I was very close with my grandparents and loved getting to stay with them for a WHOLE WEEK. As a bonus, my aunt secured permission from her principal to let me attend a day of classes at her high school.
If you’ve seen Dazed & Confused, you have a good idea of what my experience that day was like…with a rural flair. There were a lot of muscle cars mixed in with non-ironic overalls and cowboy boots. Of the many memories I have of that time what I remember most clearly is the music. There was one song in particular…
Jessi Colter wrote “I’m Not Lisa” and recoded in 1975 (I guess it took a while to catch on in the Midwest) with her producer and husband, Waylon Jennings. On its surface, it’s a pretty standard country tune about a woman lamenting the fact that her man isn’t over a previous lover. The first verse of the song is:
I’m not Lisa…
Lisa left you years ago
My eyes are not blue
But mine won’t leave you
‘Til the sunlight has touched your face
Who can’t relate to that? Competing with the ghost of a lost lover is frustrating, if for no other reason than having to answer the phone with, “No, I’m not Lisa. Can I take a message?”
But then things get weird. Because I left out part of the first line of the song.
I’m not Lisa, my name is Julie
Wait, what? Colter made it clear she’s not Lisa, we understand that. But guess what? She’s not Julie either! She’s Jessi! Who the fuck is Julie?
We know she’s not Lisa, because Lisa was “your morning light/Her smile told of no night/Your love for her grew/With each rising sun.” Lisa sounds pretty awesome. I wonder what happened to her?
And then one winter day
His hand led hers away
Of course! It was…HIM! But maybe Lisa wasn’t so awesome if she could simply be led away by some dude in the middle of a winter day. It wasn’t even under the cloak of night!
I’m still wondering though: WHO IS JULIE? Did Jessi Colter have a breakdown of some sort? Was she in witness protection and just blew her cover in a highly successful MOR country ballad in heavy rotation?
I don’t have any answers, I don’t even have a conclusion to this post. But this song has baffled me for years.