“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”
The theme of love gets revisited by each of us over and over in our lives. We lap it up as babies, demand it as small kids, chase after it in the dark when we’re school children, and fret over it from adolescence forward. Still, it’s an emotion that can’t be easily defined, although many songwriters have tried.
Whether our love is directed at a supreme being or a fragile human, whether it is carnal or spiritual, we pace our lives within its parameters. It’s noteworthy, too, that since the advent of mass media such as radio, songs of love have become commodities that seem to reinforce our sensitivities.
Chicago has been a hotbed of stories sung about love since its studios started recording crooners and its radio stations began to compete in the “broadcast boom” at about the same time, early in the Jazz Age. In fact, one of the very first commercial broadcast stations in America, WLS (standing for World’s Largest Store), which was inaugurated in April 1924 by Sears-Roebuck Company principally as a means of advertising its commercial wares, proved to be a long-lasting outlet of music and other information.
I got my own taste of Chicago radio in the early 1970s when each night I would tune the radio beside my bed to WLS. One of the groups I would hear there was the Chi-Lites. Their soul hit from 1972, “Oh Girl,” resonated deeply for a small-town Ohio boy, searching for answers to conflicting feelings:
"Oh girl/I'd be in trouble if you left me now/'Cause I don't know where to look for love/I just don't know how”; “I could save myself a lot of useless tears/Girl I've got to get away from here"; "Better be on my way, I can't stay here….”
Sonny Boy Williamson’s classic blues, “Help Me,” recorded in Chicago in 1963, hints at a similar dilemma:
“You got to help me/ I can't do it all by myself/ You got to help me, baby/ I can't do it all by myself/ You know if you don't help me, darling/I'll have to find myself somebody else….”
Perhaps Nietzsche, whose words inspired an opera by Wagner, but – to my knowledge - have not been set within many love songs, said it best when he commented that “a pair of powerful spectacles has sometimes sufficed to cure a person in love.”
Whatever the case, it’s the songs that most often get us through.
(abridged from a Daddy Peet Expresso program of the same name)