I saw Doc Watson for the last time in late July of 2011 at the Ryman Auditorium, a place I’d seen him perform magnificently on at least two prior occasions. The venue was ideal, but Doc was not in perfect shape. At the time he was 88 years old, and he showed signs of decline. He lost his place in several tunes and struggled with lyrics that he’d been singing for decades. But he got rolling nicely on his acoustic version of Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues” and then he sang “I Am A Pilgrim” with the life-affirming calm and inner light that defined him. It was reassuring. He also sang a verse of that song I didn’t know:
"Now when they laid me down for the last time
With these tired hands resting on my breast
I don't want none of that all weeping and crying over me
because you know this old boy is going to rest."
I don’t mean to contradict a good man’s sincere wishes, but that’s not so easy right now.