Love song #122: You are the Sunshine of My Life

Sometimes at this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, one might wonder if the sun will ever shine. But thanks to Joanna, I always have sunshine in my life. For this post, therefore, I considered using “You are My Sunshine” by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash or by the Soggy Bottom Boys (in the movie “Oh, Brother, Where art Thou,” which we enjoyed), but frankly that song doesn’t seem optimistic enough — particularly the lyrics, “But if you leave me to love another, you’ll regret it all one day,” which sounds too much like a line from “Law and Order.”

Despite the cliché line, “You are the apple of my eye,” Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of My Life” captures that feeling of being blessed by someone who brings joy to life — the reason “I’ll always be around.”

And I suspect that anyone who has been in a long happy relationship can relate to my favorite lines from the song, “I feel like this is the beginning, though I’ve loved you for a million years.” It doesn’t seem possible that my wife and I have had 33 years together. Yet at the same time, life before “us” doesn’t seem real — it’s as if my pre-marriage life happened to someone else, perhaps someone I read about or saw in a movie.

“You are the Sunshine of My Life” lyrics here, with video below.

Love song #121: Time After Time

Cyndi Lauper was long best known — at least for those of us old enough to remember when she was a pop star — for the catchy, carefree, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” It has been called a feminist song by some (though I never heard it as that); interestingly, like popular feminist anthem Aretha Franklin’s signature song, “Respect,” it was written by a man to be sung from his point of view.

Lauper showed a more serious side in later turning out an album of jazz standards — an album that includes such classics as “At Last,” “Unchained Melody” (hers here), “La Vie En Rose,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” and (with Tony Bennett) “Makin’ Whoopee.” Today, perhaps more people know Lauper for the Tony-winning Broadway musical “Kinky Boots,” which demonstrated that the singer is far more than a pop star who could put a unique spin on other people’s words.

In fact, her second-biggest hit from the same debut album as “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” is one that Lauper co-wrote and which has more emotional depth than “Girls.” “Time After Time” has been covered by a range of artists, including Miles Davis.

In terms of the words, most important for me are these, which Joanna and I each know to be true of each other:

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you  fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting
Time after time

Complete lyrics here, with melancholy original video (complete with old movie footage) below. Or you can see a tearful live version, in which Lauper looks much like Janis Joplin, here.

Love song #120: Solid

Solid” (sometimes titled “Solid as a Rock,” which sounds too much like a Chevy pickup commercial) by married duo Ashford & Simpson is the “funkiest” song on this blog, and frankly neither Joanna nor I is much into funk. But there several good reasons to include this song on the blog.

First, Valerie Simpson and Nick Ashford have a compelling personal story; like Joanna and me, they were friends before they fell in love, and then were married for more than 30 years.

A second reason to feature a song by the couple is the fact that they wrote some of the best Motown songs (and a few others), including “Let’s Go Get Stoned” (sung by the Coasters and Ray Charles); “I’m Every Woman” (Chaka Khan and Whitney Houston); “Cry Like a Baby” (Aretha Franklin); “Didn’t You Know You’d Have to Cry Sometime,” (Gladys Knight & the Pips); “Is It Still Good to Ya?” (Teddy Pendergrass); “California Soul” (5th Dimension); “Never Had It So Good” (Ronny Milsap, who became a country music star); “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Good Lovin’ Ain’t Easy to Come By,” “Your Precious Love” and “You’re All I Need to Get By” (all sung by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell); “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” “Remember Me,” and “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Maybe” (all sung by Diana Ross, who also made a personal anthem out of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough“); “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing“and numerous others. Now that ain’t a bad list.

A third reason for “Solid” is a pair of lines that particularly resonates with me in relation to own relationship: “We were willing to take a chance, so against all odds, we made a start.” I regret little that has happened in my life. But as may be true of most people, I regret more the things I failed to do than things I did. I’m glad that I (and Joanna) took a chance on us.

Fourth, the song recognizes that meaningful relationships — despite the love-at-first-site-fall-in-love-forever fantasies of fairy tales, movies and romance novels — grow because the people involved work at it: “We build it up and build it up and build it up.” Doing that work is why “The thrill is still hot, hot, hot; hot, hot, hot, hot, hot.”

Fifth, and finally: That’s a lot of hot.

“Solid” lyrics here, with video below.

Love song #119: Brown Eyed Girl

Brown Eyed Girl” is the second Van Morrison song on this blog, was one of the first songs listed by a contributing reader, and is another tune that I enjoy singing to Joanna when it comes on the radio as we drive. It’s irresistible: “Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah. … Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah. La dee dah.”

The song has been hugely popular, ranking in the most-played songs, despite the fact that it is now more than 45 years old and even though Morrison says it isn’t one of his own favorites. A side note: It also has contributed to the destruction of the English language by providing an early example of a missing hyphen from a compound adjective — the song should be titled, “Brown-Eyed Girl.”

Or perhaps Brown-Skinned Girl,” since apparently Morrison supposedly meant to refer to skin color, not eye color. The song would work here either way (excluding the final verse, anyway); at least in the summer, Joanna’s eyes and skin both are brown. Our time in Oregon gave us plenty of “misty morning fog,” and one of our favorite experiences in our current house came when we stepped outside early one morning to find a somewhat surrealistic vision of three deer — Joanna’s favorite animal — walking through the fog on the street in front of our house.

Lyrics here, with video of a funky early live version below.

Love song #118: I’ll Stand By You

Obviously my wife has “stood by me” at times when others might not have. She has “seen the dark side” of me,  letting me share anything and everything without loving me less. I will be eternally thankful for that, even if I don’t understand it, and it makes me appreciate even more the symbolism of being cleaned and of the cross in the video of The Pretenders‘ “I’ll Stand By You.”

The line “won’t let nobody hurt you” also now takes me back to three different times, years apart, in hospitals in three states.

The first time, doctors thought Joanna might have cancer. As she prepared to undergo exploratory surgery in Arizona, she was treated — in my view, at least — too curtly by a doctor who brushed aside her fears and questions. That may have been the first time that my wife heard what some students have since called “Jim’s scary voice.” I don’t use that voice often, but one student accused me of taking five years off of her life with it when I used it with a college newspaper staff, even though the student was an innocent bystander and not one of the staffers who caused the problem.

The second hospital memory actually involved both Joanna and me as concerned and fearful Idaho grandparents. Our then-baby granddaughter became ill and had to be given emergency-room shots in both of her tiny legs. I held Brooke down as Joanna cried; we both wished we could be the ones enduring the pain that a baby couldn’t possibly have understood.

The third experience came in Spokane, when my wife was about to undergo a spinal tap. Having had the same procedure as a small girl with polio, when a needle broke off in her spine, she remembered it as one of one of the most terrifying and painful experiences of her life. When she went through it as an adult, I stood next to her, holding both of her hands in mine and talking softly to her throughout the procedure. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more in love with — or more trusted by — my wife than I did then.

“I’ll Stand By You” lyrics here, with video below.

Love song #117: Your Song

Simply put, for Joanna and me, there are no better performers than Elton John, and “Your Song” is one of the best love songs of all time. (Even if I can’t get over the fact that Sir Elton has supposedly forgotten the eye color of whomever he’s singing for. I’m largely color-blind, and even I know better than to do that.)

Like the artist, I’m not rich, can’t sculpt, and won’t “sell potions in a traveling show.” I can’t even write songs. So for this year’s anniversary, the best I can do is to share great songs from far more talented people as a way of trying to show my wife how wonderful life is while she’s in the world.

Lyrics here, with video from an early live performance below.

Love song #116: Sentimental Journey

It’s probably obvious from the fact that this blog exists Joanna and I enjoy taking the occasional “sentimental journey to renew old memories.” We love old movies and classic cars (to look at, having neither the money nor the mechanical expertise to make them a hobby), and our home and my office boast such historic “treasures” as a 1930s cabinet radio, a 1950s console television, old trunks, black-and-white photos, and hundred-year-old books and magazines. Some might suggest that my wardrobe offers further evidence of my appreciation for old things.

One of my favorite wedding anniversaries was one of the quietest (our 31st), for which my wife and I spent most of the evening sitting side by side on the couch going through photo albums of our life together. I fear that the shoot-everything-with-your-phone-and-save-it-to-Facebook/Instagram/WordPress young marrieds of today will miss out on some things that we older folks now appreciate.

Doris Day sang along with Les Brown and His Band of Renown for the first hit version of “Sentimental Journey” back in 1945. The song became a jazz standard, recorded by Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt), Ella Fitzgeraldthe Platters, Ray PriceSheena Easton and Ringo Starr, among many others. “Sentimental Journey” was one of a number of hits for Day, who released 31 albums; others included “Secret Love,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “Autumn Leaves,” “I’ll Never Stop Loving You,” “It’s Magic” and “Tea for Two.”

Day probably is better known today as a movie star than as a singer. Appearing in 39 films and the biggest box-office star in America during the early 1960s, her films included “Calamity Jane,” “Pillow Talk,” “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” “The Pajama Game,” “That Touch of Mink,” Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (which introduced Academy Award-winning song “Que Sera, Sera“), and “It Happened to Jane” (full movie here). Day, now 90 years old and a one-time “mystery guest” on “What’s My Line,” also had her own somewhat odd television show and became a noted animal activist. You can see two documentaries about her life on YouTube, here and here.

“Sentimental Journey” lyrics here, with a 1985 video that reunites Day, Brown and some members of the band — followed by a 1945 version and photos — below.

Love song #115: Lovesong

“Lovesong” by The Cure is a simple, heartfelt, beautiful song. And though band leader Robert Smith may scare Joanna a bit when she sees the video below, I hope she’ll understand how much the words resonate with me and our relationship. Every line is nearly perfect.

“Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am home again.” Yes. Though we have never had to experience the long periods of separation common to some couples, but wherever I am — if my wife is there — is “home.”

“Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am whole again.” We all suffer pain and loss. And though I’ve suffered far less than most, Joanna has made it so much easier to overcome what I have suffered.

“Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am young again.” Joanna might kid that this is true because of our age difference, but in fact — though we have friends of all ages — we have trouble thinking of ourselves as any particular age. Birthdays catch us by surprise mostly because we are then forced to do math that seems to add up to an impossibly high number.

“Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am fun again.” Not just when we’re alone, either. We like to play, with each other and with others. Once our 4-year-old grandson greeted us at the door with the words, “Grandpa, can we get crazy?” You bet, Joe, that’s my job — and grandma encourages me in it.

With all of the above, then, the chorus has to be true:

However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you

Lovesong” (sometimes written even by the band as “Love Song,” has also been covered by 311 (the bar in the video is reminiscent of the cave in the video below), by Adele and by several lesser-known artists. If Johnny Cash were still with us, I can imagine him doing an amazing stripped-down version of the song, something like what he did with Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails.

Complete lyrics here, with video below.

Love song #114: Watching the River Run

Some of the most important parts of our lives have occurred on or near rivers. Joanna was born near the “mighty Mississip,” while I grew up not far from (and as a teen driver nearly drove into) Idaho’s beautiful Clearwater River.

I camped and fished on the North Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa as a boy; now Joanna and I occasionally make it to those same rivers together. We’ve also fished and/or swam in the Yellowstone, the Columbia, the Salmon, the Tucannon, the Rogue, the Salt, the Spokane, the Clark Fork, the Boise, the Big Wood, the Pend Oreille, the Payette, the St. Joe, and (in three different states) the Snake, along with several others. We celebrated our first anniversary overlooking the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, caught sturgeon from a jet boat in Hell’s Canyon, and lived less than 50 feet from the Winchuck River for more than a year.

In other words, my wife and I have spent a lot of time during our marriage — to quote the title of a Loggins & Messina song — “watching the river run.”

One of my favorite authors of non-fiction, Edward Abbey, was a big fan of rivers. (One of his fictional works, “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” also inadvertently inspired Earth First!, along with “Hayduke Lives” bumper stickers and a joke that Joanna and I share when we’re frustrated with bureaucrats: “Let’s buy a blue jeep.”) And of course rivers often make necessary the bridges that I like so much.

“Watching the River Run” includes a nice mandolin part, and mentions what may be Joanna’s favorite tree, the willow. And I hope, despite having 33 years behind us, “We have just begun watching the river run.”

Lyrics here, with a video that includes some nice river photos below.

Love song #113: You and Me Against the World

In truth, though perhaps Joanna and I may have felt like it was us against the world when were first were married, we haven’t felt that way for a long time. But “You and Me Against the World” is here for reasons besides the fact that we like Helen Reddy’s voice and feminism.

First, the song captures the spirit of always being there for each other, having each other’s backs so to speak, and I’ve always known that Joanna was my strongest ally.

A second reason is more humorous: the lines, “Remember when the circus came to town; how you were frightened by the clown.” One of the many things that my wife and I share is some coulrophobia (which in our case extends beyond being disturbed by clowns to being a bit freaked out by ventriloquist’s dummies and many dolls). We’re not the only ones, of course — even Alice Cooper and Bart Simpson know that clowns can’t be trusted.

Finally, I like how the last verse of the song describes part of what I hope this blog will help do, for Joanna or me, should we not someday die together:

And when one of us is gone,
And one of us is left to carry on,
Then remembering will have to do,
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you,
Of you and me against the world.

Lyrics here, with video below (or one of her singing it with Kermit the Frog here).