Crossroads was a British soap opera that ran from 1964 to 1988, and in its day was very popular, and the main competitor to Coronation Street. Millions of people tuned in, for want of anything better to do, to watch the adventures in and around a motel in Birmingham called the Crossroads Motel. It starred many people, none of whom I have ever heard of.

There is a fan club website, but as it opens with (a) music, (b) frames, and (c) a flashing orange marquee on blue, I'm not going to tell you where it is. I just thought I ought to briefly mention the most famous Crossroads before moving on to the one I like.

'Crossroads' is possibly the saddest of all Don McLean's songs. It is fourth track on the 1971 album American Pie, which also contains the other contender for saddest Don McLean song, 'The Grave'. But it must be relatively easy to make sadness out of wars, gravestones, young men, and a few twangling guitar chords. I don't want to devalue 'The Ghost', but I don't think McLean tore his own heart out writing it, the way he must have with the vastly more personal 'Crossroads'.

The music is nothing but a slow piano, broken sounds.

It is bleak, not merely sad for the loss of a love, but peering deep into the singer's heart, and finding nothing. All that had ever been was nothing, nothing can be found, or remembered, or forgotten. It is like something out of Schubert's Winterreise, it is a plumbing of the artist's true heart, not a tale made up by the artist. And so long has he been without it, that he was lost the will for it. This is him, starved, a husk:

I've got nothing on my mind.

Yet, not without hope, not entirely. He doesn't know where it'll come from, but he hasn't lost the addressee's love yet. The situation is harder: he doesn't deserve it, he know he doesn't, he can't find anything in himself worth loving. Is it possible for the love of another person to reach in and find something where he can't?

Can you find my pain? Can you heal it?

If the beloved can respond, can reach in deeply enough, can believe in him despite all the emptiness, then they have a chance to walk together somewhere out of the darkness, as they had in their past, to find a goal. They managed it before, some unfathomably long time ago, it must seem to him:

As long as we could walk together.

So the song rises up, the bitterness of his present failure veiled in tears of hope for a future that might, just might, he believes so sincerely it might and must, come good if that one other person can love him and heal him: despite everything, despite their plans.

As with the ending of Winterreise, we see and feel with a ruined human being drawing close to annihilation, and we never do know whether the end will be good or bad.

Quoted portions of lyrics are about 10% of the total and should be fair use.