Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love, Actually... But, Actually

The first time I heard this song was on a Sunday. I had just finished work, and the bfm jazz show was on; it must have been someone else's car, maybe my sister's, because mine didn't have a working stereo in it. We were driving along, probably talking, and listening. Then the song came on, and I felt the world stop. When it ended, I sat there with tears all over my face, feeling as if something had just happened to me. Which it had, really; I had experienced Otis Redding, not as I'd ever known him before, but in a way that would change how I listened to music forever.

It seems lame to compare Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, but to explain why I love this song, and why, when it comes down to it, I am an Otis' girl, I have to. I grew up listening to Sam Cooke, and I loved him. He sounded beautiful, he looked beautiful, and the songs I knew were happy songs about being in love. When I was grown up, I found out more about him; about how he sang with the Soul Stirrers before crossing over, and what that cost him. I read about the humiliation he went through when touring America; stories about him being stripped naked and forced to sing in front of firemen in the south, and about the places that wouldn't serve him. I learned how strongly he felt about The Times They Are A'Changin'; strongly enough to write A Change Is Gonna Come, and how he became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. But in spite of all of this, when I listened to his music, all I ever really heard was promise. Maybe it was his looks - or maybe his reputation - that made me feel like when he sang about love, it was a light and happy thing for him (I know that probably wasn't always the case, but that was how he sounded to me), and that was what I liked about him. But I am a Radiohead fan. I wrote angsty poetry in the middle of the night for years. I cry in the shower. I like my peanut butter crunchy. So when I heard this song, about twenty years old and without a care, I felt I understood it. I felt like I knew Otis. With every note he groaned, I knew he felt it; that I could believe him, and trust what I was hearing, so much that I felt it all too, for him. In the past, songs had always to relate to me, or else I could only really enjoy them on a superficial level (I think that's true). Anyway, as I remember it, it was a breakthrough.

I think I've always been inclined to throw myself into my emotions, and to happily borrow a feeling (dear Milhouse's dad) from a song or book or movie. Having given/lost my heart to Vincent, that's it; I would gladly undergo hours - weeks - a lifetime! - of torture to save him, and I like to know that everyone who knows me, knows it. Shakespeare knew it: 'Tis an ever fixed mark. There's love, that people laugh about, because they're happy all the time. And then there's love, that people cry about, because they live in fear of something parting them from their beloved. And that's why I love this song. Because, while I can laugh with the former, I am the latter. This song is for the latter.

Yes, Sonnet 116 again.

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