Is it possible the truth can come out in the lyrics of a pop song? Can it be that some very precious knowledge can be found in the words of a nightclub crooner?
Maybe in the endless search for new hits, some lyricist does, once in a blue moon, stumble on to something, on to a real piece of verity. Maybe in the refulgence of vanity, as in an endless algorithm, the truth will inevitably surface, eventually. After all, we’re talking about words. The truth is stated in words. It can be found in our language. Shouldn’t it show up now and then–even in lyrics to a street level, even low-down lyric?
In 1924, there was a song written by Gus Kahn (with music by Isham Jones) called “It Had To Be You.” It was included in a 1939 film called The Roaring Twenties (Cagney & Bogart) and eventually made it as a single. The lyrics themselves are like a confession. In romantic life, that is sexual attraction and accoutrements, there is frustration with ambiguity and a desire for resolution. And, in our faulty human condition, even that resolution includes offenses and inadequacies. “Love,” which is what we’re talking about, softens the disquietude of human weakness. When love hits, the road is just smoother. That’s all.
Here’s Tony Bennet (b. 1926) singing the song. It is just a YouTube post, and I do not know the band, or even the date. The pianist is excellent.
And here’s another version, with Billy Holiday.
I post this one for the saxophone. Again, it is a YouTube, without band name, or place, but it has a date: 1955. The saxophone is all-time top. Exquisite taste. (Could it be Eddie Miller.) On the second round, the muted trumpet doesn’t impress me at all, but that’s opinion.
The song has seen multiple arrangements, up-beat, energetic, even fast. I don’t know the original concept, but, from what I gather, it was a moderate tempo, neither very slow, or very fast. There is an Artie Shaw CD with two version of “It Had To Be You,” the second being even faster than the first.
The point is, the lyrics of this song are captivating, and seem to touch on a most basic human need–the resolution of sexual promiscuity. So, in a way, the whole concept is simple: there is in fact some soul mate, some magical person, that fills the bill. Once met, once encountered, seems to be irreplaceable.
There are those who testify to this, as truth, therefore, we can’t just write it off as simply a suggestion coerced by compounded frustrations, by generations of failed relationships.
Somehow, I sense a kind of unspoken theology in all this…
Here are the lyrics. Thank you, Mr. Gus Kahn (German Jew, 1924).
It had to be you, it had to be you
I’ve wandered around, finally found
Could make me be true could make me be blue
And, even be glad just to be sad thinkin’ of you.
Some others I’ve seen Might never be mean
Might never be cross Or, try to be boss
But, they wouldn’t do
For nobody else gave me a thrill
With all your faults, I love you still
It had to be you, wonderful you It had to be you