Killing Me Softly With His Song

[WARNING: IF SAD SONGS MAKE YOU SADDER, THEN STOP READING NOW!]

Before you shake your painted fingertips at me and call me “Mr. Doom and Gloom” (a girl-friend once did that), I’ll save you some time and energy.  I have a great deal of Irish blood in my veins, I’m Black Irish and raised as a 1950s Catholic.  I carry around my fair share of sin and guilt.  After all, I’m the one who was told (as a young teenager) that I would burn in hell for all eternity because I French Kissed my girlfriend.  Yes, I was told that in the Confessional.  I’m not even sure I ever got over being told that by the priest who grabbed me from my bicycle and asked me when I had my last confession.

Consequently, I’m a card-carrying melancholy soul.  But, we all are, when you think about it.  Isn’t 50% of great drama, Tragedy?  Of course it is.  It’s what gives life it’s true meaning…destiny, redemption, forgiveness, memory and the love of life itself.

That said, this post is getting many things off my chest.  So, read on…

Our pop culture is rife with teen angst songs like “Tell Laura I Love Her” and “Teen Angel”.  We loved them in our youth even though they were quite tragic in nature.  There are, however, three songs (at least ones that I can recall) that have developed an aura of sadness, loss and heart-break and even suicide, around them.

These songs are “Gloomy Sunday” the classic 1930s hit by Billie Holliday, “Long, Long Time”, made famous by Linda Ronstadt and “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, a major score for Bonnie Tyler.

These songs have been connected, by rumor I must add, to suicides.  The story is familiar: a body is found in a boarding room or a cheap motel and the song is playing on the tape player…or the lyrics are scratched onto a paper held in the hand of the deceased.

Consider the Hungarian Suicide Song: “Gloomy Sunday”.  Composed by the Hungarian, Rezso Seress who ironically committed suicide in 1968.  There is no question that the song is dark, very dark:

          “Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless

Dearest, the shadows I live with are numberless

Little white flowers will never awaken you

Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you”

And further:

          “My heart and I have decided to end it all

Soon there’ll be candles and prayers that are said I know

But let them not weep, let them know that I’m glad to go.”

Now this is stuff that anyone who thinks it’s worth dying for another will chew up and swallow like a clam chowder.  The real kicker is that the last verse tells us that the narrator has only been dreaming…that her heart is only talking.

Let’s move on.  Bonnie Tyler had a huge hit with “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. I can’t think (sorry Tyler fans) of a bigger single in her opus.  But here she sings a similar sentiment:

“Together we can take it to the end of the line

Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time

I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark

We’re living in a poster keg and giving off sparks

I really need you tonight

Forever’s gonna start tonight

Forever’s gonna start tonight.”

Sound familiar?

Which bring us to the last of the cycle of doom songs.  The sweet, pure voice of Linda Ronstadt sings in a plaintive voice:

‘Cause I’ve done everything I know

To try and make you mine

And I think I’m gonna love you

For a long, long time.

Here we go with the long, long time theme again…eternity (I’ll meet them all there because I French Kissed my girlfriend about forty-five years ago, remember).

There are some lyrics to contemplate, just don’t go your Kenmore Range and stick your head inside.

So, what are we to make of all this?  Here are my thoughts:

Suicide is one of the most tragic acts one can foster on one’s family and lovers.  The pain it causes never ceases and the hearts that are left behind, broken, make the suicides’ heart ache mundane by comparison.  I’m not saying that the act is easy to explain.  Indeed, it’s a complex issue that minds greater than mine have struggled to explain.  [Take note: I am totally avoiding any  involvement in the physician assisted deaths that are being debated in the courts as I write. RIP Dr. Kevorkian!]

I know something of what I write about. Once I thought of ending my life. I checked PVC tubing and how secure the garage door was.  I had a tablet at the ready for the note.  But, that is as far as I got.  I really believed that the pain in my heart would never end…but it did. Things got better. They really did, on levels that baffle me to this day.

Everyone who has a heart, a brain and who thinks and who loves will enter the dark valley in their lifetime.  If you are lucky enough to never have been there, then bless you!

I won’t end with a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ reference…that’s a death metaphor.  But climbing up to the sunlit, heather covered meadows, lying down among the wildflowers and watching the clouds morph is its own reward.  Yes, the clouds will darken the sun sometimes and those stunning cumulus clouds can cast shadows across the flower bed, but someone, somewhere is waiting for you.

Roll over, they may be lying beside you.

Now is the time to kiss them.

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