Sucker for a Love Song
(Yes, the Grammy's were an easy target, but as I did not catch the whole thing I didn't feel like I could give a "fair and balanced" review. I will say that those dancers dressed as Native American rump shakers during Outkast's "Hey Ya" were a sight I won't soon forget. In the interim...)
With Valentine's Day approaching, I am reminded of a scene from long ago. A smoky bar late at night - a gangly, young bass player leaning on the bar between sets - hitting on the attractive, older, blonde barmaid behind the bar. The woman sighs and asks out loud, "Why do I always fall for musicians?" A song comes over the jukebox, and the barmaid answers her own question, "I guess I'm just a sucker for a love song."
What is it about love and music? Love songs are as old as time. Ancient Egyptians wrote pre-Beatle love poems about wanting to hold each other's hands that we believe were accompanied by music. Likewise, the ancient Greeks wrote love songs directed to both sexes (perhaps most notably the poetess, Sappho - we will save the same-sex marriage debate for another time). Surprisingly, the Bible contains some of the most beautiful love poetry ever written in the Songs of Solomon. Embarrassed conservative Christians often do somersaults to make the argument that these songs should be taken metaphorically about the love of God, but it seems pretty clear Solomon was in the business of recruiting concubines.
The advent of courtly love brought love songs back after the dearth of music during the Dark Ages, and troubadours thrilled their audiences with tales of love gained and thwarted. The times were filled with legendary lovers - King Arthur and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, (later) Romeo and Juliet, and my favorite star-crossed lovers of the time: Abelard and Heloise, sadly separated by Heloise's uncle, who sent his poor niece to the convent for life, while cutting off poor philosopher, Abelard's offending part. Despite such violence, the love theme continued on through to America and Stephen Foster, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles to the present day (although often tainted by a Thurberesque war of the sexes undercurrent). Now some might say there has been a diminution in the quality from King Solomon and Shakespeare, and even from "Cheek to Cheek" to "It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes," but the basic message is still the same.
The urge to procreate, the attraction to other parties, the raw longing, the disappointment, the wanting to settle, the not wanting, the whole incredible mixed-up sensations of love form the basis for much of our most exciting and emotional music. These are turbulent times; however, when women have seemingly descended from off their pedestals in the locked towers, yet find themselves still clutching remnants of the baggage of the past. Men too, are confused about their new roles, and it seems the whole situation will take some time to settle, if ever. It isn't to be despaired though - I have no doubt throughout it all, love will shine through.
The future of love songs is never in doubt, and there will always be good songs as well as bad, but I hope we do make some progress in achieving a more stable truce in our ongoing battle between men and women as roles become adjusted. And while I'm as enamored as any guy with dangerous curves and pouty lips, I still think the sexiest part of a woman is her mind, and I am hopeful the pendulum of sex-drenched songs can return a bit of dignity to my sisters of the world.
Well, it's getting late and I've said my piece. Wonder where that barmaid is tonight?
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