“Ever since I first heard that song,” says Francis W. Porretto, “I’ve wondered: ‘Why ninety-six tears? What would have happened on Tear #97?’ It appears we’ll never know.”
I’ve always figured that “96” was meant to stand in for some otherwise-indescribable number. It is a finite number, though, so it’s possible to go higher.
A lot higher.
You may remember Dickey Lee for a teenage death song called “Patches,” about a desperate girl who throws herself in the dirty old river that flows by the coalyard in Old Shantytown.
Or, if you should so desire, you can split the difference.