About Love and Music

May 30, 2009 at 11:07 pm Leave a comment

Cover of "Wichita Lineman"

Cover of Wichita Lineman

I’ve always been deeply touched by music, as I suspect most people are. I played in band when I was young and sang in choirs and musicals. Music moves me maybe more than most people. I hear a song, and if I think it’s a good one I become enthralled with it for some reason, the melody or harmonies or percussion, a turn of phrase in a lyric. I’d like to write about some of the music that’s touched me lately and what I saw in it that I thought was so special.

First of all, there’s a little ditty of supreme bubble gum pop perfection, because I am, by no means, immune to the charms of a good catchy tune. I’m speaking of, “Bleeding Love,” a song co-written by teen idol Jesse McCartney and Ryan Tedder and produced by Simon Cowell for Leona Lewis‘s debut album. First of all, there’s the velvety voice of Leona Lewis that speaks for itself. Then there’s the percussion in this one: a booming bass or timpani drum (I can’t tell) beaten in a way so as to duplicate the sound of a racing heart beat. Most of the lyrics on this song are trite and run along the lines of the good woman falls in love with bad boy. While her friends try to talk her out of wasting her time on someone who will only break her heart, she is compelled to race to her own heartbreak. But there is a turn of phrase in the first verse of this song that struck me as pure genius. The woman is talking about the interim between her last relationship and the current bad boy and the lyrics say, “Time starts to pass, before you know it you’re frozen.” And something in that particular lyric did strike me as mature and poignant.

My favorite song for quite a while, with which I was obsessed after my fleeting romance with, “Bleeding Love,” was, “Realize,” by Colbie Caillat. I played it over and over until I knew every lyric and thought I could sing it as well as or better than Colbie herself. Why I was so obsessed with this song is anyone’s guess. I think it comes from my lifelong desire to have a love that would just naturally occur, organically, grown out of a pot of friendship maybe with a seed of fate, watered with some common, everyday experiences and the contentment that comes through experiencing small, everyday joys with someone, as opposed to the hell of, say, dating. And that that someone would maybe eventually come to look at you and realize that you were one of a kind, as in THE ONE, and he must have you for all time. A pipe dream, I know.

I don’t even believe in the concept of someone who is THE ONE anymore, and I think that it’s a load of crap that’s sold to us in fairy tales when we’re little girls. I think the real truth is that there are a lot of people out there for us, some more compatible than others, of course. And that relationships are a choice everyday that we make to invest in another person, and they involve some work. I also believe that relationships, whether through break up or death, are not maybe meant to last forever, and it’s not a failure if they don’t. So, just why was I so enamored of a song that seemed to embody the very principles of love that I reject as hogwash? Again, I don’t know.

It’s funny how different things about different songs will strike people, too. I have a rather shy male friend who learned how to play this song on the guitar and what struck him about the song was how Colbie sang, “But I can’t spell it out for you. You know it’s never gonna be that simple. No, I can’t spell it out for you.” He said given her attitude that she and that dude were never going to get together. His take was that they were both secretly in love with each other, and the girl just needed to spell it out for the guy since he was obviously obtuse, while my take had been that she was suffering from unrequited love and that he obviously did not return her feelings.

The next two songs that struck me recently struck me for different reasons. One was a song that I’ve known since I was probably a junior or senior in high school and have heard played countless times. I like it, again, because it’s catchy. It is a pop tune, infused with hints of world music. “Graceland,” by Paul Simon. I never before really paid any attention to the lyrics, and the other day I was listening to it on my iPod while riding the city bus when it struck me that he had probably written the song in part about his breakup from Carrie Fisher (who is probably only the world’s wittiest living woman, in my opinion). There was a lyric about a woman who comes back to tell him that she has moved out. And the woman says that, “losing love is like a window in your heart. Everyone can see you’re blown apart. Everyone sees the window.” Ah, greatness! And even though Paul Simon is no slouch when it comes to lyrics it sounds more like something that Carrie Fisher would write.

Another male friend of mine recently introduced me to the pleasures of a fine old country song that I did remember from my childhood. It was recorded by Glen Campbell and written by a guy named Jimmy Webb. There have been many cover versions, including a version recorded by James Taylor that won a 2009 Grammy Award. It’s called, “Wichita Lineman.” I also like the lyrics in this one, which mix the mundane work related thoughts of a lineman for the county with his sad musings over how much he misses his missing lover, and he says he can hear her in the line. In other words, something in the way the wind plays through the electrical lines produces a sound like the voice of  his lover. And the original Glen Campbell recording made an effort to recreate the actual sounds that a lineman would hear. And that’s the other thing that gets me about this song. I love songs that mix sounds from real life, like, the plinking of a drop of water in Stevie Wonder‘s, “Overjoyed,” or the sound of a bunch of guys stomping on a dock together, in rhythm, on Ace Frehley‘s, “New York Groove.” There’s a musical term for this. My shy guitar player friend says it’s called onomonopoeia. Who knows?

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