Hi everyone. Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing. But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?
(Image found online. Original source unknown.)
I know we are in a serious situation, but I need a break from the gloom, doom and bullying by way of hoarding. Music has always been my refuge and watching those beautiful Italians singing to each other from their balconies reaffirmed my belief that music is the answer. So until the old normal returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.
I heard someone say once that if you get through the pain, and you put the past behind you, there are good things ahead. Sometimes profound things. And that happened to me. I finally made peace with my past and while I do not usually share things like this, I feel like if I can help one person then it will be worth it.
Growing up I heard things no one should ever hear, but especially not an impressionable child. And it did not just happen once, but over and over again. It go so bad that by the age of 7 I even threatened to run away. But nothing changed. My parents continued to subject me to an unspeakable horror. And by unspeakable horror I mean the sounds of the Fifth Dimension.
The pain was real. I tried therapy a few times but it took years before I found the help I needed, and that was with a support group at the VA. They saw combat but once they heard my story, they knew my hell was almost as real as theirs. And since even seeing the name of my nemesis in front of me is giving me flashbacks, going forward I will only refer to them as F.D.
I hated the F.D. HA-TED them. I know hating is wrong, but so was nearly every note this group ever sang. I believe part of the issue was all the members were always singing together in what was supposed to be five part harmony. It was not. And at that time I was listening to “The Partridge Family” & “The Brady Bunch” who sang in six part harmony and I was fine with it, so go figure. I remember hearing someone on the radio refer to the F.D. as an R&B group. That was like saying Pat Boone sang rock & roll!!! My parents were not hippies by any stretch of the imagination, but no self respecting hippie would ever have been caught dead listening to this group despite “The Age of Aquarius” slant anyway.
One morning when I woke up to the sound of that terrible song for the 927,623rd time (and trust me when I tell you I was rounding down), I got out of bed and walked into the living room where my mother was singing her heart out to what had become the bane of my existence. I told her point blank that if the moon went into the seventh house one more time I was leaving. Instead of taking me in her arms and giving me the rightful apology I was owed (and maybe a puppy for good measure). she seemed shocked and surprised that I knew the lyrics. I was about 7 years old so I do not remember exactly what I said to her, but I believe it went something like, “Are you kidding me? How could I NOT know the words? You have played this song 927,623 times!!!” (Side note: In an odd way keeping count kept me somewhat sane as it gave me something to focus on other than those awful songs. In therapy I discovered that is how members of POW camps learn to survive-by controlling what they can).
The lyrics were part of the problem. They made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. The main songwriter the F.D. worked with was Laura Nyro. I came to understand that she was considered ahead of her time but I just did not get her at all. Still don’t. For instance, in “Stoned Soul Picnic” (whatever the heck that is), the opening line is “Surry down to a stoned soul picnic“. Surry??? Was that even a real word? Or was it a combination of the words “so hurry”? And if so, how much time was actually saved by leaving out two letters? Then in “Sweet Blindness” (an oxymoron if ever there was one), one verse is “come on baby do a slow float, you’re a good lookin’ riverboat and aint that sweet-eyed blindness good to me“. What the hell???
Then in another one of Nyro’s songs, “Wedding Bell Blues”, we have the lead singer begging a guy in the group named Bill to marry her. Where in God’s name was her self respect? And what the heck was that recording session like? I was embarrassed for her and I was only 7!!! Even a song (“Up, Up & Away”) written by one of my favorite writers ever-the American treasure that is Jimmy Webb-made me cringe, but again I put the blame 100% on the group. After all, Webb gave us great songs made famous by the likes of Glen Campbell (“Wichita Lineman” & “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”), Art Garfunkel (“All I Know”), Linda Ronstadt (“Easy For You To Say”) and so many others.
But in all that darkness, one ember of light emerged. The sound of a slow tempo song, sung by one voice with four backing vocals instead of the five group members singing at once, done in a beautiful arrangement. The lyrics were different than their other songs, although I must admit I did not fully understand them at the time. Example: “one less egg to fry” made no sense to me. After all, I was seven so I didn’t cook plus my mom either poached or scrambled my eggs. And “one less man to pick up after”? Was my dad leaving, I wondered. And if so, where was he going??? But still, I found the song glorious. And that was my introduction to two of the best songwriters this country-heck, this world-ever gave us: Burt Bacharach & Hal David. They saved me.
Years later I heard today’s song, written by this prolific duo, and I absolutely swooned. The singer is not one of my favorites but her work with this extraordinary writing team was a powerful force in the 1960’s. Her voice is so soft and pretty, and delivers a great vocal to a gorgeous arrangement. It is the best of what a sad love song should be: succinct, poignant, evocative and leaving you begging for one more note. I love so many Bacharach & David compositions (“Anyone Who Had A Heart”, “This Guy’s In Love With You”, “A House Is Not A Home” “The Look Of Love” to name a few) but this one I adore.
Hal David, Dionne Warwick & Burt Bacharach circa 1964 (Image found online. Original source unknown.)
Dionne Warwick: “Walk On By” (1964, written by Burt Bacharach & Hal David).
I do not own the rights to anything. I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.