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Talking About Love

by David Yeagley · February 3, 2013 · 12 Comments ·

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.

Ray Charles did a good version, of course Sinatra, and the newer throw-back of Harry Connick, Jr.

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
somebody who
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

Posted by David Yeagley · February 3, 2013 · 12:02 pm CT · ·

Tags: Bad Eagle Journal · Media · Music · Women




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12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David Yeagley // Feb 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm   

    I have to say, this kind of “love” is quite Western, and fairly modern.

    It certainly isn’t the way Comanche people have understood relations, nor have any other tribal people, really.

    This is very sophisticated. Very self-conscious. The chemical experience of “love” is universal, certainly; but the self-conscious superimposition of ideas, images, concepts, this is all I believe quite Western.

  • 2 Thrasymachus // Feb 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm   

    Western — especially Anglo-Saxon — radical individualism, that explains it! It’s the same reason that Whites do not stick together as a people.It’s also a reason why the divorce rate is so high: people expect to find heavenly perfection in earthly situations.

    I’d like to hear a Barbra Streisand version (I think) of this.

    Truthfully, if there really exists someone “exactly right” for someone else, what are the chances of finding them? Perhaps the process of selection ought not to be left up to mere chance? Having all things in common: the same culture, tastes, beliefs, outlooks, interests, and goals — these seem to me to be highly important. Though opposites initially attract, this attraction is nevertheless short-lived and headed for a precipice and will inevitably end in disaster.

    (No more from me! I’m not a marriage counselor or match-maker!)

  • 3 David Yeagley // Feb 3, 2013 at 7:02 pm   

    What you say is true, Thrasymachus. Radical individuality is the whole tenor of America. This is why there are separate states, counties, etc., and such a small Constitution. The idea was to always allow for individuality.

    Wonderful politics, but, maybe it isn’t so appropriate for personal romance–when it comes to permanent relationships.

  • 4 David Yeagley // Feb 3, 2013 at 7:04 pm   

    Here’s your Streisand version.

    Personally, I think the lyrics show this is a man’s song. Streisand’s version, a feminine as possible, doesn’t fit the words, in my opinion.

    I think real promiscuity is more of a man’s problem. A woman is more naturally settling into a nest.

    I didn’t see this, in this song, really, until Streisand’s version. These lyrics are out of a man’s experience.

    What do you think?

  • 5 Thrasymachus // Feb 3, 2013 at 8:09 pm   

    Relying thoroughly on the introductory portion, before the verses, it seems to me (on first impression, at least) that the songwriter intended these words — virtually all the lyrics — to be from the lady. In other words, the man could not feel confident of her loyalty until, after a period of separation, she comes back to him with this message.

    So, yes, although the man normally is the one with the insecurity about settling down, in this song it is the woman who, out of her strong preference for THIS particular man, persuades him that she’s the one for him. In other words, if she’s absolutely certain, then he feels that he can afford to be.

    Just an interpretation. I may be quite mistaken.

  • 6 Thrasymachus // Feb 3, 2013 at 8:15 pm   

    Up to “you’ll come and say,” the words are the man’s. The he puts words into the mouth of the woman he’s interested in. This is a song where the man wants to be the object of HER persuit, rather than be the one actively to secure the permanent relationship. He leaves her in order to (hopefully) strengthen her inerest in him. He is, in other words, being passive here. This how these lyrics strike me. HE says, “YOU have to explain.” He’s saying, YOU have to convince me. Very passive. And yet the song is narrated from the man’s point of view. He’s telling of his strategy. So it seems, anyway.

  • 7 Thrasymachus // Feb 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm   

    “Up to “you’ll come and say,” the words are the man’s.” That is to say, in Bennett’s version.

    When Streisand sings it, the roles are reversed.But the song really is written by and primarily for an insecure man. Just my opinion.

  • 8 David Yeagley // Feb 3, 2013 at 10:12 pm   

    Here’s the greatest, Eddie Miller, on Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady.” If you don’t know the tune, you can’t completely appreciate the creativity of Miller…


    Eddie Miller Sophisticated Lady by boberwig

  • 9 Thrasymachus // Feb 4, 2013 at 2:18 pm   

    I certainly can appreciate, though, the amazing virtuosity of his saxophone playing!

  • 10 Asaph // Feb 6, 2013 at 7:53 am   

    While I might see male chauvinism in the lyrics – “with all YOUR faults” – I don’t see promiscuity. Wandering and becoming true blue conjures up someone who found a love which makes them loyal and stable; something true love does when one is born again.

    It has to be Christ. It can be no other who can stop our wanderings and make us true blue – loyal and righteous- in connection with Him. He has no faults, either. In that way human love songs always seem to bring love to lower levels. Certainly all humans are faulty, but in Christ all faults can be overcome through faith.

    Human pop lyrics will always have a kink in them because of their source.

  • 11 Asaph // Feb 6, 2013 at 7:57 am   

    Of course, Hollywood and recording capitols have conjured up people who live sexually promiscuous lives. I don’t see Tony Bennet in that light, nor others of that era who sang that song, like Andy Williams, one of my parent’s favorites.

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