It’s not clear when Jimmie Allen, Charley Pride, and Darius Rucker recorded their latest song, “Why Things Happen.” What’s clear is how the song sounded when it came out earlier this month, six weeks after George Floyd’s death sparked worldwide Black Lives Matter protests. “You’ll never know when your last breath’s gonna fade like a July sunset,” Rucker sings in the song’s opening line.
More than any kind of overt protest statement, the power of “Why Things Happen” comes from three generations of black men sharing anguish and questioning the sources of their own pain. “You try not to question/God and his judgement,” Allen sings, “But dammit, I don’t understand.”
There are also multiple examples of trauma and tragedy in the song: a newborn baby is forcibly separated from their mother; a young man is killed on a highway. As three of the precious few black country music chart-toppers in the past 50 years, Allen, 32, Rucker, 54, and Pride, 86, meditate on the inexplicable nature of these injustices. As Allen told Rolling Stone in 2018, “a lot of times it’s hard to kind of step out as a black country artist because nobody looks like you.”
Part polemic, part proclamation, and part prayer, “Why Things Happen” opens up space for Pride, Rucker, and Allen to bear witness. “Your heart keeps on beatin’ through all of those feelings,” Allen sings towards the end of the song, summarizing a lifetime of persistence, “that you thought you’d never get through.”
Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.