Ben Folds mostly deserves his reputation as an incorrigible smartass, but some of his best and most successful work is unmistakably melancholy. Folds scored his biggest and most surprising hit with the downbeat, abortion-themed “Brick,” but his true legacy might lie in another ballad: “The Luckiest” from 2001’s Rockin' The Suburbs.
As he relays in this episode of One Track Mind, the song wasn’t just written for the little-loved, mostly forgotten Amy Heckerling comedy Loser: It was specifically, methodically tailored to be the soundtrack for the film’s big emotional climax. But it was due for a destiny much grander than lingering on the Loser soundtrack.
Alas, the scene “The Luckiest” was supposed to accompany ended up on the cutting-room floor, and Folds later added an additional verse inspired by an elderly couple who died within weeks of one another. The result was a song he felt “cracked the code,” that was emotional and romantic and sincere without being corny or overly sentimental.
The A.V Club spoke with Folds in his Nashville studio, a sacred cathedral of sound previously owned and run by Chet Atkins, the legendary producer and guitarist. Before each session, the studio has a custom of playing an album that had been recorded there. That magical morning, as the crew set up, we listened to Dolly Parton’s Jolene, Willie Nelson’s Yesterday’s Wine and appropriately enough, Chet Atkins Picks The Beatles in quiet reverence as we waited for the incredibly busy and multi-tasking Folds (he’s currently a judge on The Sing-Off, promoting a greatest-hits album and preparing to record a Ben Folds Five reunion album) to arrive. Atkins’ presence can be felt keenly even in his absence: “What would Chet Do?” inquires a sign on Folds’ mixing board, as does one demanding “More cowbell!”
Folds cut a genial, casual, joking figure as he perambulated about the studio but turned instantly and dramatically into an artist the moment he sat down to play “The Luckiest.” The result might just make you want to get married, for semi-sneaky reasons Folds elaborates on in the video.
In addition to this fabulous video, we've got some cool Ben Folds prizes to give away, including autographed lithographs and copies of his new collection, The Best Imitation Of Myself: A Retrospective. Click here to visit the contest page.