28 DAYS OF LOVE SONGS
Ages ago, long about 1974, I went to hear Linda Ronstadt perform in – get this – a bowling alley in western
This song was written, the liner notes tell me, by Eric Justin Kaz and Libby Titus. Now, I’m intrigued by the Wikipedia stub about Libby Titus – currently married to Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, she also had a child with Levon Helm, a double-whammy romantic pedigree for sure. I mean, this chick has been in the right circles. (How she linked up with ex-Blues Magoos-man Eric Justin Kaz to write this song is probably another story worth telling.) Libby, if you’re reading this, anytime you want a ghost writer for your memoirs you only have to call me.
This seems important because – well, I want a woman’s perspective on love. All these men we’ve been listening to claim to be tormented by their mean controlling girlfriends; it’s time we look at heartache from the other side of the gender divide.
Without even a beat of intro, Bonnie launches right into that rueful opening line: “I’ve had bad dreams / Too many nights / To think that they don't mean much any more.” The way this melody soars upward, cresting on “too many,” it could get shrill, but Bonnie keeps it simple – it’s just her and a finger-picked acoustic guitar, like she’s singing on her lonesome front porch in jeans and a T-shirt.
Sure, there’s a defiant edge to her voice in the chorus, as she declares, “Love has no pride / When I call out your name.” It’s such a mystery, why we sometimes love people who don’t love us; it doesn’t make psychological sense, and yet it happens every day. Love is supposed to be selfless, unconditional, all that crap, but carrying it to this extreme is – well, it’s human. “Love has no pride,” she adds, “when there's no one left to blame” – when he’s gone, she can’t blame him anymore, can she? But after flinging her voice so plangently into the fray, I love how she softens it, humbly, for that final line of the chorus: “I'd give anything to see you again.”
As she tells us in the second verse, it might be already too late – “I've been alone / Too many nights / To think that you could come back again.” The next line is the most painful thing in this song: “I've heard you talk / ‘She's crazy to stay’” – isn’t that a lover’s worst nightmare? – but she’s too stubborn to give up: “But this love hurts me so, I don't care what you say.”
She’s grasping at straws in the bridge: “If I could buy your love, / I'd truly, try my friend. / And if I could pray, / My prayer would never end.” You almost want to flinch when she sings, “But if you want me to beg, / I'll fall down on my knees,” twirling sweetly on the highest notes, then doggedly adding. “Asking for you to come back / I'd be pleading for you to come back / Beggin’ for you to come back / To me.” This girl just does not give up. Devotion and forgiveness are what she brought to this relationship – and that may be all she has left, but she’s not letting them go.
This song could easily come off as a crazy person’s ravings, or an emotional extortion note, as if she’s one step away from slitting her wrists. Bonnie, though, sells it with weary acceptance – she knows he’s gone, she knows he’s not coming back, it’s just that . . . it still hurts. Her clear shimmering voice never overdoes the pain; instead of building to an emotional head, it gets softer and more wistful as the track goes on.
Is this a great song? Probably not, and it’s certainly not the last word on how a woman looks at love. But I love how it distills loneliness and loss and regret, with that heart-breaking melody. The guy’s already gone, so who’s she singing it to? She’s just pouring out her soul for the sake of it – sometimes, that’s all you can do.