Friday, February 13, 2009

“Love Has No Pride” / Bonnie Raitt


Ages ago, long about 1974, I went to hear Linda Ronstadt perform in – get this – a bowling alley in western Massachusetts. This was one of the songs she sang that night, a cover of a 1972 Bonnie Raitt track. Now that I know Bonnie’s version, I have no time for Linda’s yelpy straining cover (go here for why I love Bonnie to death). Sorry, Linda, but thanks for all the artists I learned about through your covers.

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.

Love Has No Pride sample


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing Holly! Found this new wonderful live version of Love has not Pride by Bonnie. Two back to back takes. From a 'few' years ago

Mike Craft said...

Inquiring minds want to know the location of the bowling alley.

Holly A Hughes said...

Believe me, I wish I could find it again! Somewhere in the Springfield area . . . probably a KMart now...