Our folksy Valentine’s Day mix continues and concludes in this song-filled post. The acoustic guitars are being strummed and the piano keys are delicately being tickled as the voices of love birds sweetly coo their romantic yearnings. Or do they?
Perhaps no other musician conjures such a sense of longing and passion as Cassandra Wilson in her rendition of ‘Love Is Blindness.’ Songs like this gut the heart, splitting it apart in desolation and desperation. When love is unrequited it sometimes feels more real. That’s the dangerous foolishness of the whole affair: the silly ways we want, the dumb ways we desire.
LOVE IS DROWNING IN A DEEP WELL
ALL THE SECRETS AND NO ONE TO TELL
TAKE THE MONEY, HONEY, LOVE IS BLINDNESS
LOVE IS BLINDNESS
I DON’T WANT TO SEE, WON’T YOU WRAP THE NIGHT AROUND ME?
It turns out that love is tricky terrain, especially in the winter. Especially around Valentine’s Day. So many expectations, so many disappointments, so many traps set up by the fools at Hallmark, the gods of love, and the rest of us raising our middle fingers to Venus and Cupid, dodging crippling arrows or painting a bull’s-eye across our chests, and wishing and hoping and praying…
BOY ON THE BIKE, WHAT ARE YOU LIKE AS YOU CYCLE AROUND THE TOWN?
YOU’RE GOING UP, YOU’RE GOING DOWN, YOU’RE GOING NOWHERE
IT’S NOT AS IF THEY’RE PAYING YOU, IT’S NOT AS IF IT’S FUN
AT LEAST NOT ANYMORE...
During a brutal winter in Chicago, in the last days of a relationship that we both tried valiantly to save at various, if opposite, points I listened to ‘Bitterly’ by Me’Shell NdegeOcello. It probably wasn’t the healthiest thing I could have heard, but I knew it had to be done. I had to hurt before I could heal. I had to cry before I could laugh. I had to feel the pain before I could hope for any bit of happiness.
As the wind whipped down the long lonely streets of the city, off the lake and carrying with it tiny shards of ice, I let it seep into my coat and tug at my hair. I didn’t want it to happen, but I felt it was. The arrival of bitterness, and not the slightest sense of sweet to offset any of it.
MY APOLOGIES FALL ON YOUR DEAF EARS, YOU CURSE MY NAME BITTERLY
AND NOW YOUR EYES, THEY LOOK AT ME BITTERLY
I STAND ASHAMED AMIDST MY FOOLISH PRIDE
‘CAUSE FOR US THERE’LL BE NO MORE.
AND NOW MY EYES LOOK AT YOU BITTERLY.
We did our best, and we failed. Yet I don’t regret any of those early loves. They almost make me smile, and the people in those memories still warm my heart a bit. I will never feel bad for loving someone, and certainly not for being loved, no matter if it didn’t last. ‘The Boy Done Wrong Again’ and ‘Requiescat’ – two sides of a heart, or maybe a head. Where does love begin and end?
We are going to skip the next two songs originally on this downtrodden mix because they are going a bit too deep for my liking, and if we don’t right this sinking shop soon, Valentine’s Day will be lost forever. (For the record, they were ‘X-Static Process‘ and ‘The Drugs Don’t Work‘ – which was once reckoned to be the saddest song ever written. Besides, I’ve already written about both. No need to rehash the wounds.)
Rather, let’s close with a couple of quiet rays of hope in the doldrums of all this cynical Valentine-bashing bullshit. First up, an ambivalent but somehow hopeful take on a relationship in ‘Ring on the Sill’ by the Cowboy Junkies:
HE PUTS HER RING ON HER FINGER, SHE BRUSHES BACK HIS HAIR.
HE TAKES A SIP FROM HIS GLASS, SHE INHALES THE COLD FALL AIR
AND THEY’RE THINKING OF THE LONG ROAD AHEAD,
AND THE STRENGTH THAT THEY WILL NEED JUST TO REACH THE END…
AND THERE IN THE SILENCE THEY SEARCH FOR THE BALANCE
BETWEEN THIS FEAR THAT THEY FEEL AND A LOVE THAT HAS GRACED THEIR LIVES.
And last, to close out this day on a gentle note, an echo of our opening song from Side One by Duncan Sheik: the full version of ‘The Wilderness.’ It’s what happens when you take love and heartache and pain and fear and passion and adoration and forgiveness, and turn it all into art.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
AND ALL WE HOLD
IS ONLY IN THE PAST.