Another Saturday night – and songs of loneliness

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.

Sunday mornin’ coming down

One of the best songs written by Kris Kristofferson is the title of this post – “Sunday mornin’ coming down.” The song is largely about the loneliness of Sunday morning after a night of drinking, smoking and partying. Here is the chorus:

“On the Sunday morning sidewalks
Wishing lord that I was stoned
‘Cause there is something in a sunday
That makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city side walks
Sunday mornin’ comin’ down”

I wanted to use this song to portray while we are alone, we crave being social with a group of people. The Greek language has a word for this called ‘thumos” which means a desire to belong and be recognized. When we don’t have those things, we can get awful lonely.

One of the saddest ballads happens to be one of my favorite Beatles’ songs, “Eleanor Rigby.” It tells a story of a lonely woman of that name dying and being buried by a lonely priest named Father McKenzie. Here are the final stanza and chorus to the song which tells you all you need to know:

“Eleanor Rigby
Died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie
Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all belong?”

I use these two examples, as we humans will join groups that may be not the kind of groups we should belong to. We do that to just avoid being lonely. We do that because someone or group is paying attention to me. These groups of extremists actually prey on lonely people telling them “The Others” are the reason for their lot in life. They turn loneliness and disenfranchisement into fear. This groupthink is alluring as well as palliative.

It is hard to break through the shell that is created to protect its members. Bill Maher calls it the “bubble.” He said it is hard to get factual information inside the bubble, as the members of the group don’t want to hear contrary information. Once these folks have drunk the Kool-Aid, it is often too late.*

Now, I am not saying everyone who is lonely is among the more strident members of society. I am saying people who are lonely, disenfranchised, downtrodden, etc. are more susceptible to being wooed into a way of thinking which is inconsistent with their values.

With so many avenues for misinformation and disinformation, it takes an effort to stay truly informed. It takes an effort to know when smoke is being blown up a lower extremity. It takes an effort to say, I don’t believe you to someone who is paying attention to you in a day where not many do.

I was watching a movie where a lonely woman, defined as mousy in the plot summary, falls in love with a narcissistic jerk she works with. He pays attention to her and treats her nicely some of the time, but he makes you cringe with how he treats her most of the time. In the end, after she has had enough, long after a less lonely person would have, her one friend summed it up saying you fell in love with an a**hole.

We need to avoid the a**holes whenever we can. Sometimes it is hard to do, when the a**holes are giving you attention you don’t often get. Especially when it is a group of them.

*Note: I use this reference often but the term drinking the Kool-Aid references how Jim Jones, a famous cult leader, got his believers to kill themselves en masse – he poisoned their Kool-Aid. Many believed in his message so much, they knowingly drank the poison.

Friday’s Child – a surprising song from Nancy Sinatra

Looking for a song for Friday caused me to stumble on this interesting song by Nancy Sinatra. Unlike her biggest hit “These Boots are made for Walking,” the song “Friday’s Child” is filled with more angst. Plus, it has some clever guitar playing throughout.

Lee Hazlewood wrote the song in 1966 and captured in a few short syllables the travails of this Friday’s child. Here are the first few verses:

“Friday’s child…..Hard luck is her brother
Friday’s child…..Her sister’s misery
Friday’s child…..Her daddy they call hard times
Friday’s child…..That’s me

Friday’s child…..Born a little ugly
Friday’s child…. Good looks passed her by..oh
Friday’s child…..Makes something look like nothing
Friday’s child…..Am I..ya

Friday’s child…..Never climbed no mountain
Friday’s child…..She ain’t even gonna try..oh
Friday’s child…..Whom they’ll forget to bury
Friday’s child…..Am I”

If you click on the link below of the top 20 Friday songs, it is number 14. But, you may like a few of the others better than this one. This one intrigued me given its singer was more of a one-hit wonder.

The opening stanza speaks volumes. She is speaking metaphorically, but these descriptions could double as people. Plus, the next to last line I include above is “Whom they’ll forget to bury.” It reminds me a little of my favorite song by The Beatles called “Eleanor Rigby,” where a lonely priest buries a lonely woman.

We are a world of imperfect people. Sadly, we are a world where opportunities do not exist for too many. There lot in life is predestined. Mac Davis wrote a song that Elvis made famous called “In the Ghetto” about a mama crying over one more mouth she cannot feed.

Think of this backdrop as you listen to Nancy sing.

All the lonely people – let’s avoid being the future Eleanor Rigby

One of my favorite songs by The Beatles is one about lonely people – “Eleanor Rigby” written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney with Paul singing the lead and John singing a haunting echo that rounds out the song. The song highlights two lonely people, Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie, who meet each other at the very end of Rigby’s life as McKenzie is the only one attending her funeral. Here are the lyrics:

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream

Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie, writing the words
of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near

Look at him working, darning his socks
In the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came

Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
(Ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
(Ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all belong?

We are a lonely lot of beings. It is only when we reach out to others, do we alter this fact. I am afraid we are becoming more alone as we become more disconnected. Michael Gerson’s column earlier this week introduced me to Robert Putnam, a Harvard Sociologist, who Gerson hopes is wrong about his findings. What are they? Putnam has done research on the rising individualism which has liberated us from social commitments. His data goes back to the 1990s.

What Putnam has discovered through an analysis of this data is we are shunning attendance at various social outings such as church services, bowling leagues, Moose lodges, company picnics and parties, etc. We have cocooned more by choice and now are more inclined to be less civil.  He also notes the trend is not distributed equally, as the working class is the group that has become more disconnected. He notes upper and middle class parents are continuing to introduce their kids to more social avenues, but others are suffering and it abets income inequality. He notes social connectedness is a strong predictor of later success whether it is test scores, college attendance or income.

In addition to other measures, he encourages having healthier community institutions and engaging families to participate more. He encourages stronger family units through birth control to prevent early pregnancies and permit better family planning. He also encourages more economic leveling approaches which will help those on the bottom end make a decent living. I would add a comment I have heard in my work with impoverished people – we need to build off community assets. For example, each community should have a vibrant public school or public park that is inviting of extracurricular activities for the students, parents and other citizens. These become community centers. As communities are improved, we need to allow for safe and inviting public gathering places that will attract events, meetings, etc.

And, we need to unplug and get out. Social media has enabled us to share and reach out to far more people, but it can also make us loners. Let’s avoid being the future Eleanor Rigby’s and Father McKenzie’s. Let’s get out and meet and greet each other. It is the best way to stop the loneliness.