In deference to Cat Stevens, it was the legendary Sam Cooke who made this song soar. Here is the first stanza that sets the stage for being lonely on yet another Saturday night.
“Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody
I got some money ’cause i just got paid
How I wish I had someone to talk to
I’m in an awful way”
Loneliness is a common theme of ballads. I was watching an excellent documentary on Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys last night. The parts that stood out to me are when Elton John and Bruce Springsteen repeatedly sang his praises of musicality and wordmanship. His brothers Carl and Dennis sang praises of their tortured brother as well and it is apparent the love they had for each other.
Elton said something interesting that when Wilson expanded his horizons and wrote deeper and richer songs, it of course brought out more emotional and poignant lyrics. The instrumentation on “God only knows” which he asked his brother Carl to sing the lead is far more complex than the simple sound, to the extent the studio producer does not know how he did it. Both Elton and Bruce spoke of how they wore out “In my room” which Brian speaks of a safe haven.
Loneliness, love, spirituality, security, et al are emotions that are all over his later songs. Yet, he was indeed a tortured soul suffering from Schizoid Affective Disorder. Even in the documentary, riding in a car with a friend doing the interview, Wilson was anxious and scared. He did and does hear voices. He was depressed. He was also taken advantage by a controlling counselor for nine years who would not let him talk to his own family.
Yet, he was Mozart-like in his writing. The one thing that drove him beyond the love of music was competition. Competition with other song writers like Lennon and McCartney, but with himself as well.
Back to Sam Cooke and his song about a man with money to spend, but no one to spend it with. I think we all are lonely souls to some degree. The number of songs that speak to this are immense. Brian wrote “God only knows what I’d be without you.” We may not be able to find a “you” but we should not give up trying.
One of my favorite songs about loneliness is the story of “A Better Place to Be” by Harry Chapin. Here is the close to the song, a conversation between two lonely people:
“You know the waitress took her bar rag
And she wiped it across her eyes
And as she spoke her voice came out as something like a sigh
She said, “I wish that I was beautiful or that you were halfway blind
And I wish I weren’t so goddamned fat, I wish that you were mine
And I wish that you’d come with me when I leave for home
For we both know all about emptiness and livin’ all alone”
And the little man
Looked at the empty glass in his hand
And he smiled a crooked grin
He said, “I guess I’m out of gin
And I know we both have been so lonely
And if you want me to come with you that’s all right with me
‘Cause I know I’m goin’ nowhere and anywhere’s a better place to be”
So, when you speak to someone in a store or on the street, you may be speaking to someone who does not have many conversations. I wrote recently about The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Let’s try not to let people die alone. Reach out. I remember the story of a homeless man who started crying when a woman spoke to him – you see she was the first person to speak to him in over a month. Think about that.