Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Key To My Peace Of Mind: The Sunday Song

For my entire conscious life I have been subject to occasional (and occasionally crippling) bouts of what I have heard called "the Sunday night blues".

(The discovery that there was a recognized term for this feeling, and thus other people who also experience it, was reassuring in and of itself.)

It's not what you might think: The Sunday night blues have existed for me for much longer than I have understood Sunday as The Day Before You Go Back To Work.

I don't exactly know how to describe these blues, but the word "keen" often comes to mind. For me the compelling thing about a Sunday is that it is simultaneously an end and a beginning.


At this stage in my life I often find myself grappling with questions about what it means to be young, a woman, a young woman, etc--your general existential angst miasma. And for whatever reason, these questions often coalesce into one of authenticity.


(But hey, it's 2012 and as my friend Carolyn put it in January this will be a year when one shouldn't be surprised to just see a large jungle snake slither by out of the corner of one's eye, or to unexpectedly hear a random, foreboding drumbeat.)

When it comes to authenticity in pop music there is no more appropriate Patron Goddess than Carole King--the Jewish girl who wrote the hits of the sixties. All the hits.

(Okay, so she didn't write "Oh! Carol" but she INSPIRED it so I'm gonna give that one to her too.)


Carole King wrote "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" which, as sung by the Shirelles, is absolutely one of my favorite songs in the entire world and will get a post in the future probably with the title One Of My Favorite Songs In The Entire World.

She also sang her own version on Tapestry, her mega-successful 1971 solo album. I personally feel the Shirelles version is unquestionably better, but that's a topic for another time.

Where it comes to "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", I have to say I'm more undecided. As previously evidenced here on In Bed With Amy Wilson, I have carried a brightly-burning torch for Soul Goddess For The Ages Aretha Franklin for a long time, and her 1967 recording of "A Natural Woman" is both better-known and, admittedly, sassier than the version Carole King released on Tapestry.

But sometimes, on a Sunday, a young lady happens to value sass less than what feels real.

The song: Carole King, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"; 1971
The moment: 2:48

I will be the first to admit that I am incredibly easily taken in by the pyrotechnics of pop music. Horns! Handclaps! Showy, major-key re-imaginings of a particular refrain endlessly repeated starting at about minute 3!

(Looking at you on that last one, Mariah Carey.)

Aretha Franklin's "A Natural Woman" has a full complement of pop embellishments and sparkles, which is part of why it remains one of the enduring--if perhaps over-used in movies for a time in the mid-nineties--hits of the 1960s.

Carole King's has none. It's her voice and her piano stylings and the elegance and transparency and simplicity of her lyrics. (Somebody who can do justice to the line "When my soul was in the lost and found/You came along to claim it" and keep a straight face has a LOT to teach those of us stuck in the meta-aware hell that is 2012 about earnestness. A LOT.)

At 2:48 these things combine for a climax that is as powerful as any gorgeously engineered Aretha Franklin song--a climax made no less powerful for its use of earnest emotion rather than the musical facsimile thereof.

I used to feel so uninspired.


I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish the very happiest of birthdays to Amy Sumerton, a dear friend and kindred soul who is teaching me by example that the passionate pursuit of authenticity in life can have very great rewards.

It may be a Sunday, but everybody, let's MARCH FO(U)RTH with humor and boundless energy in honor of Amy Sumerton today.