I borrowed my Blog title from my favorite song on Carole King’s first album, Tapestry, which turns 50 years old this year, February 10th to be exact. Pandemic notwithstanding, Love is in the air in anticipation of Valentine’s Day – the date set aside annually for us to revel in romance, or the idea of it. More love songs are downloaded in February than at any other time of year. I have been listening to Tapestry in honor of its own anniversary. Love songs remind us that being alive includes sharing with another person the depths of our joy, pain, and longing.
Nothing compares to a love song that makes a connection with you. The song that knows to the minute, when you fall in love and your heart needs confirmation because it is about to burst. The song that reaches in and touches you where you hunger for love to fill the empty spaces; or the special song that zeroes in to find the exact spot where you hurt from the sting of heartbreak. We sing about love even though romantic love is not always about chocolates and roses. A great love song stands the test of time, whether it is about dreams of love fulfilled, the yearning for love, or the loss of a special love you had or thought you had. I admit that I am not so tuned-in to music of the current era enough to praise modern love songs. My sensibilities hark back to the sixties, reaffirmed by a line from rock band Three Dog Night. Give me “just an old-fashioned love song, coming down in three-part harmony.”
American and British music of the fifties and sixties filled the airwaves of our small Caribbean islands where I was growing up. I recall my earliest awareness of love songs on the radio, with melodies and lyrics that registered in some soft private place within me, too soon to explore. There was, When I Fall in Love by Nat King Cole, The Twelfth of Never by Johnny Mathis, and my introduction to Elvis Presley crooning, Can’t Help Falling in Love with You. While my high-school classmates were all about Elvis the rocker, I was hooked into his slower and gentler touch with, And I Love You So and Love Me Tender. And who from my era can forget Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers. For a long while, male artistes dominated airtime. But once the gender barriers were removed, Diana Ross and the Supremes broke through my Elvis vibe with much needed teenage love advice worked into their single, You Can’t Hurry Love. I would close my eyes and conjure up lovers yet to make my girlhood dreams come true.
My adulthood dawned in the seventies. I bought my first grown-up album, Carole King’s break-out Tapestry, released in February 1971. Tapestry became the proverbial song-track of my life. I could not get enough of her plaintive hit, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? All twelve songs on that album reached out to me as I loved and lost, stumbled, and fell, and got up, to love again – a pattern that matched familiar themes from Tapestry, my forever favorite album, which I would spin on repeat whenever I needed it most.
Tapestry made the tough life lessons about romantic love easier to live through. Songs on the track, So Far Away, and Home Again reflected my sadness through a difficult marriage in my inexperienced twenties while far from home. The lyrics of It’s too late, subsequently gave me strength to make it through separation and divorce. And her soothing, You’ve got a friend, reminded me that a different type of love exists. We cannot get through the difficult times of love and marriage gone wrong, without the support of friends.
British writer and lay theologian, C.S. Lewis, pleads for us to value the other types of love equally with Romantic Love. In comparing the four types of love , he explains that while Romance lends itself to conception and propagation of the human species, Affection gives us a sense of connection and belonging in family and other social groups; Charity leads us to empathize with and help our fellow human beings; and Friendship, the fourth type, makes us the happiest because it is the most fully human of all loves. Lewis claims that Friendship is the closest resemblance to Heaven. As someone whose professional specialty is marriage and Relationships, I have discovered that romance may get you the wedding and a baby, but a happy marriage is built upon genuine affection and friendship. If romance sustains during marriage, it is the sweet icing on the cake. Nevertheless, love songs remind us how achingly satisfying romantic love can be, despite the oft-times irrationality and brevity of it.
C.S Lewis declares, “Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken”. Many love songs capture the anguish of romantic love. I am a transplanted island girl who loves American Country Music – a seeming contradiction on two fronts – my choosing to adopt and relish music that makes an art form out of the agony of love. The list is miles long but lingering through my head are Patsy Cline's lyrics and deliberate intonations that ooze wrenching heartbreak. I understand too well her laments in, I Fall to Pieces, and Crazy for Loving you.
The Beatles defined rock music for a generation of adolescents between1960 and 1970, but they were champions of romance with fifteen love songs that climbed to the top-of-the charts in a single decade. Delve deeper and you would find that some of their love songs taught us how to deal with heartbreak and disagreement. Lyrics from, Let It Be, prompts restraint, and We Can Work It Out, cautions that “life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting.”
As my philosophy of life evolves with age, my mind explores Carole King’s, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, beyond romantic love. It now invokes examination of challenges in any type of love. Think of the notable efforts we make to display charity at Christmas time, and how soon we retreat into our own lives again, come January. Consider when countries are at war, that the generals’ instincts lead them to honor peace and love on religious holidays, with a declared cease-fire. Then when the tomorrow comes, they fire up the tanks and machine guns and return to the killing fields.
Despite the murky history of Valentine’s Day, if you have a partner, definitely enjoy the flowers and the chocolates to celebrate your intimate love. Romantic dinner at a fine dining restaurant may be off the table due to the pandemic but you can get creative. Those of you, like me, who are alone, can reminisce with favorite love songs and also use the opportunity to appreciate that other types of love exist. Affection and Friendship are valuable for life. We can rejoice with love for family members and friends and observe efforts to practice Charity – love for our fellow human beings. Mix up your playlist to include different types of love songs. Download the late great Bob Marley’s One Love; Simon & Garfunkel’s, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and allow their profound rendition of Sound of Silence to wash over you as a fitting tribute to Love, in a year that finds the world in lock-down due to a raging pandemic.
The Beatles, together and separately brought us other types of love songs that would make C.S. Lewis incredibly happy. Songs that celebrate Affection, Friendship and Charity across the world among us human beings. Paul McCartney begs us all to “Give Peace a Chance, and the very prayerful John Lennon has left us to reflect on his powerful tribute to the brotherhood of man, Imagine – “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” As Lennon says, I hope I’m not the only one.