In the short but monumental career of Patsy Cline, the country music icon experienced sublime amounts of pain, heartbreak and devastation. It comes through her iconic voice in songs like “Faded Love,” “Sweet Dreams,” and of course, her signature song “Crazy.” Her mesmerizing vocals were informed by devastating personal loss and the physical scars of a car accident that almost took her life two years before her death.
Those songs are immensely special for the young country singer Destinee Law, yet the one Cline song she connects with in the strongest of ways is “I Fall to Pieces.”
“I think it’s partly because of the lyrics, because I can relate to them the most,” said Law. “The range that song has, it’s really low to really high, and she has such beautiful breaks in her voice. You can really hear her heartbreak in that song.
“It’s one of the best songs she ever recorded.”
The 22-year-old Law relates to that song on some deep levels, her own heartbreak channeled through Cline’s iconic contralto voice. Law herself was only a one-year-old when her future in the foster care system was about to be cemented, her parents abandoning her to the state, only to have her maternal grandparents shut down that option by taking her into their home to raise her instead.
Getting an opportunity to share her own life experience through the music of Cline is a golden opportunity for Law, who is starring in the musical “Always, Patsy Cline,” now playing at the fledgling San Jose Musical Theater. The two-person show features 27 songs from the Cline canon, coupled with lunch/dinner at San Jose’s Gordon Biersch Brewery restaurant.
The show is based on the true story of the relationship between Cline and Houston housewife Louise Seger, a relationship that was bonded over strong coffee and through many letters shared between the two over the years. Those letters make up much of the plot of the show.
For Law, who figures she first heard “I Fall to Pieces” as a little girl at the home of her great grandmother, the lyrics cut her deep. In addition to her parents leaving her as a baby, she also lost the only father she ever knew, her grandfather, when she was only 14-years-old. And through her adolescent years, while other kids her age were getting down to pop music and hip hop, Law fancied herself as a kind of lone wolf, sticking to the pioneers of country music such as Cline and Loretta Lynn.
“Growing up the way I did, I loved country music the most, because it told a story from beginning to end,” said Law, born and raised in Pinole. “I was kind of the odd one out growing up, people would call me ‘Country Girl,’ and I would wear boots to school. But country music touched my soul in a way no other music did.”
It is a soul that is heavily influenced by Cline’s distinct, visceral voice, a country singer who seamlessly transitioned into a crossover career in unprecedented ways before a plane crash felled her in 1963 at the age of 30. And for Law, nothing touches her soul more than when the opportunity comes in the show for her to sing “Sweet Dreams.”
“I’m not a real religious person, but when I sing that, I think back to when she was in her car accident, and she said she saw Jesus in her hospital room and he told her it wasn’t her time,” said Law. “When I sing that song, I feel like Patsy is there, telling me that this is what Jesus meant. I feel very connected spiritually when I sing that song.”
Law has deep ambitions to continue pursuing a career in country music. She is ready to embark on her second trip to a Nashville studio for more vocal recordings this summer. But for now, she is thrilled to be portraying such an influential figure in her own career. And you can bet the same person that was there for her as a baby when others weren’t will certainly be there for every other milestone that awaits her future.
“My grandmother has been the most supportive person I ever had,” said Law. “She’s there in the front row of everything she can be, going around bragging to all her friends. It’s really awesome to see how proud she is of me, and I love making her happy and proud.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
San Jose Musical Theater presents “Always, Patsy Cline”
Written and originally directed by Ted Swindley
Starring Destinee Law as Patsy Cline and Terry Weitze as Louise Seger
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
33 E. San Fernando Street, San Jose, CA 95113
Tickets range from $25 – $50
Tickets include lunch/dinner
For tickets, call (800) 838-3006 or visit www.sjmt.org