Don’t They Know…?

Yes, I know Skeeter Davis was a country artist. But this song hit number two on the Billboard pop charts, and it was one of the biggest hits of 1963, and anyway, we cannot do pop and rock songs about the end of the world without featuring this heart-stomping classic, titled simply “The End of the World.”

Skeeter link for the e-mail people.

“The End of the World” is just over two and a half minutes, straightforward and simple, and serves as a more than satisfactory response to those who accuse those people who’ve just been flattened of “feeling sorry for themselves.” Because yes, in fact, it is the end of the world.

Why does the sun goes on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world
‘Cause you don’t love me anymore?

There’s a spoken interlude at the end — it was 1963, after all, and there was that little stretch when everybody thought that was cool — but it’s short, and Skeeter does it well enough, and it doesn’t do any harm to this slick Nashville Sound ballad.

Wait — did I say slick? Listen to that vocal. Right there in the first line, she sings “shineeeng,” she hits “rush” awkwardly hard and interrupts the smooth melody, she wobbles and even cracks a wee tiny bit on “Why do the stars glow above?” in the second verse. And every single time, she sings “ind of the world” instead of “end.” It’s unpolished and even a little awkward.

And it’s 100 percent intentional. Skeeter Davis was no teenager when this was recorded; she was in her 30s and had been a pro for years. But she and producer Chet Atkins took advantage of her naturally youthful-sounding voice to evoke the girl group and female pop sounds that were working on pop radio at the time. Compare “End of the World” to how Skeeter sounds on this bit of Carole King-penned fluff from the same year:

“I Can’t Stay Mad at You” link.

She sounds much more polished and controlled, and her small but true voice is used to advantage; it’s a nice fit for this inconsequential little tune. And yes, this was released as a country single — crossover dreams aren’t exactly new. And it was indeed a top 10 hit on the pop charts.

But Skeeter Davis is best remembered, of course, for her biggest hit, a perennial top contender when people set out to list the most depressing songs in pop history. And I kind of admire it for that: “The End of the World” is 100 percent unapologetic downer — no rage, no coyness, just “I got dumped and it stinks.” And who can’t relate to that?

About Bridey

Bridey has been a music nut since falling in love with Elton John's "Caribou" album in grade school (why that one? I was nine). She's a magazine editor by trade who writes regularly about radio, music, and related industries.
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