Sunday, November 16, 2008

I heard there was a secret chord

Sunday mornings should not really be for heartbreak, but I was revisiting some old songs. This set does not follow an earlier theme; these are not songs that have been put in permanent storage because they're too evocative of a particular time or feeling. These songs never really went away. If they had ever popped up on the radio while I was driving, I would have cranked them, maybe even pulled the car over.

I'm only going to mention one of them because it's in my head right now. Too much beauty all at once can be a bad thing anyway, can dilute. Anyway, you've probably (hopefully!) heard this song before, but I just wanted to remind you. I know I'd want to be reminded of this songs at least.

It is by Jeff Buckley. You could actually just buy yourself a bottle of wine, put the album Grace on repeat, and call it a night. There are so many gems on that album that it's sort of amazing that I bought the CD for $5 in some marked down bin in Boston in early 1995. Most people now know the album for the ubiquitously played Leonard Cohen cover Hallelujah. There's no doubt that Buckley covered Hallelujah in a way that is very difficult to top.

There are other heartbreaking songs on the album like Lover, you should've come over and Forget Her. You know, it's so much cooler to pick some obscure song from an album and claim it as your favorite, making it somehow more of a closely held secret. Problem is, there's a reason the big hit is a big hit. So, even after all these years, I have to admit that the song that I come back to over and over again is Last Goodbye.

If I ever shut this blog down, that would most definitely be the title of my final post. It's hard to write about this song without getting ridiculously worked up. From the very first guitar slide and the bass line, the song just pulls you right in. I think I could pick out the guitar slide at the beginning of this song in 2 bars or less, it's so distinct. And then, of course, there's Jeff Buckley's voice, which, I am quite certain, has launched a legion of imitators (in a good way, unlike the army of faux Eddie Vedders that also came out of that time in music). Anyone who thought the 90s were all about grunge mumbling need only listen to this song to be shown otherwise.

Forget that though. Yes, there's Buckley's liquid vocals, the strings, the bass. All of that. And then on top of that, the lyrics, and the wind is just knocked out of me. The song is a standard issue break-up song, I suppose, but it captures the spectrum so well. Take this for example:

Just hear this and then I'll go- you gave me more to live for, more than you'll ever know

And then couple it with this:

Why can't we overcome this war? Maybe it's just because I didn't know you at all.

It's amazing because there's resignation without bitterness, something circumspect about the song. Which is kind of how things are when they're finally, thankfully over. Really, all you need to do is hear it, and everything I am trying to explain will pale in comparison to the actual experience of the song itself. You can also check out the video so that you can swoon over the late Jeff Buckley, and mourn that he wasn't able to put out a larger collection of work.

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