Remember the song Twist and Shout?
Ah, glorious 1962. About the last year I thought I was a good dancer. After the Twist, it all got too unstructured for a poor white boy with middling rhythm.
But it’s not dance moves that hearing the Isley Brothers exuberant recording yesterday got me thinking about.
“Come on and twist a little closer now, and let me know that you’re mine.”
I’ve just been in London, where Burkas abound. It’s a little unnerving to see women completely draped that way.
“Baby I’m yours, and I’ll be yours until the stars fall from the sky,” sang Barbara Lewis in 1965.
Those were years when love meant possession.
My own awakening to the fact that I might be looking at love wrong came in 1974, when I heard Linda Rondstadt sing:
“Love is a rose,
But you better not pick it,
It only grows when it’s on the vine.
Handful of thorns and you’ll know you’ve missed it.
Lose your love when you say the word mine.”
I remember exactly where I was when I first heard her sing those lyrics (LA, on the freeway, where one tends to spend a lot of time in LA). I had been so indoctrinated by the Isley Brothers and Barbara Lewis that hearing Linda's song was something like realizing for the first time that something I had taken for granted—like Republicans and my father’s immortality—might be wrong.
I wondered if I would have the guts to do that. To leave love on the vine. I wasn’t even sure what that meant, but it sounded wild and free and desirable in that way of things you want but can’t be sure you will get.
Music stirs the soul (and often other more clinical parts). It moves us like nothing else. In that way, it teaches us. There is no curriculum. No common core. You can hear what you want to. Learn what you want to.
In matters of love, the course catalogue is varied, but it tends to focus on sex and passion. There is an obsessive and possessive aspect to love. Nature arranged it that way, for the perpetuation of the species. But that primitive urge to possess someone has outlived its usefulness.
Woman power has been rising in the charts lately. Chrissy Hynde, Pink, Beyonce. These women won't be possessed.
The misogyny of rap is a troubling holdover. Really, we need to drop that whole violence against women thing.
When my sons Chris and Nick were very young, I used to sing them to sleep. One of our favorites was a Bette Midler song that I thought I liked just because it was a nice song. But I see now that it talks about love the way I would like my sons to think about it.
"When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed that with the sun's love,
In the spring becomes the rose."