IÁ¢€â„¢m a sheep at the card table, just waiting to be fleeced. IÁ¢€â„¢ve got no poker face, for starters Á¢€” everything comes out in the eyebrows, and in the smirk I simply cannot erase. Add in a general fogginess on the actual rules of most card games, and you can see how IÁ¢€â„¢d spend a rainy afternoon getting fearsomely bluffed by a five-year old in multiple hands of I Doubt It.

But as a writer, IÁ¢€â„¢m in love with the language, with the music of the games, with double down and shoot the moon, with five-card charleys and busted flushes and inside straights, with one-eyed jacks and suicide kings. ThereÁ¢€â„¢s romance in that language, and it has run like an underground river through folk and popular song for centuries before Lady GaGa was born.


Á¢€Å“The RovinÁ¢€â„¢ Gambler,Á¢€ Tennessee Ernie Ford

This is one of my earliest pop music memories. My dad had a fistful of Columbia promo LPs, cheap disposable things Á¢€” the Á¢€Å“Now thatÁ¢€â„¢s What I Call MusicÁ¢€ of their day, I guess Á¢€” fifteen or more years old even when I first heard them. I was allowed to listen to them on my little turntable with the built-in speakers. Al Hirt, June Christy, Steve and Eydie, Les Baxter Á¢€” it all seemed so impossibly grown-up. And Ernie Ford, with his finger-snapping shuffles and that big, friendly voice, seemed almost like a favorite uncle.

Á¢€Å“The Card Cheat,Á¢€ the Clash

This is Strummer & Co. going back to some of their own pop memories, I think. It sounds like theyÁ¢€â„¢re trying to make a Petula Clark record here.

Á¢€Å“Solitaire,Á¢€ Suzanne Vega

These days, more and more kids are getting their first exposure to card games via the computer. TheyÁ¢€â„¢re missing the essential people-reading skills, maybe, but taking a short ride to the obsessive nature of the pastime. I donÁ¢€â„¢t play many computer games, myself, precisely because I know IÁ¢€â„¢m capable of pissing away an entire evening at hand after hand of Vegas-rules Klondike.

Á¢€Å“The Ace of Spades,Á¢€ MotÁƒ¶rhead

The cards make such a brilliant metaphor that sometimes itÁ¢€â„¢s hard to stop seeing them as such. Symbolism is so inevitable that even the author of the stubbornly literal Á¢€Å“Killed By DeathÁ¢€ is seduced by it.

Á¢€Å“Shape of My Heart,Á¢€ Sting

Say, remember how weird it was to see Sting playing the lead characterÁ¢€â„¢s dad in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels?

Á¢€Å“Deal,Á¢€ the Jerry Garcia Band

IÁ¢€â„¢m one of those sneery punk types who hated the Grateful Dead, and I always assumed that I hated them because of Jerry Garcia. As I listened further, though, I noted how lively and focused JerryÁ¢€â„¢s work could sound with Dave Grisman and the Jerry Garcia Band. I still hate the Dead. But now I blame Bob Weir. That motherfucker.

About the Author

Jack Feerick

Critic at Large

Jack Feerick — editor, proofreader, freelance know-it-all, and three-time Jeopardy! champion — lives with his family somewhere in upstate New York, where he plays in a rock 'n' roll band and occasionally runs his mouth on local radio. You can listen to more of his work on Soundcloud, if you like.

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