What is Love? #letsblogoff

There’s this weekly event called Let’s BlogOff, wherein a subject is posted, and participants post essays on the topic on their blogs. Nice. A good writing exercise (an “assignment” can always stretch creativity, I say), and a good way to create community among the bloggers ‘n tweeters. (Confession: I’ve only participated once before. Bad me.) This week’s topic: What is Love? Which got me thinking. Not about what to say about love. About songs. Songs that ask the same unanswerable question. Oh, perhaps not exactly unanswerable; maybe unanswerable in mere language, with its silly words and linear-ness. Its rules and structures. None of which seem to have much of anything to do with love, any or every kind, which if it has any shape at all is concentric, is multidemensional (which is probabably why we need songs), and is the number one rule-breaker of all time. No. Not a rule-breaker. Beyond rules. Apart from rules. Each love having its very own unique grammar, language, syntax.

Here is a poem I once wrote about a deep and powerful love of a sort I’ve never exactly known. And now for the music, explorations of the question at hand:

Deee-Lite is the only disco-era group (and late disco-era at that) that really grabbed me. This isn’t their best song (check out “Groove is in the Heart” and “Who Was That” for a fuller measure of their deeelightfulness), but it’s called “What is Love?” and so it must be included here.

Cole Porter’s harmonically brilliant “What is This Thing Called Love?” is a favorite among jazzers. It works as a ballad. It swings. The meaning can be expressed powerfully, either way. Sarah Vaughan shows us how.

“But Beautiful” (music Jimmy Van Heusen, words Johnny Burke) has a verse that could be the theme song for this week’s Let’s BlogOff (“Who can say what love is? Does it start in the mind or in the heart? When I hear discussions of what love is, everybody speaks a different part”), but I couldn’t find a version with the verse. Still, here’s Shirley Horn on piano and vocals.

“You Don’t Know What Love Is” (Don Raye and Gene de Paul) is another favorite. I recorded it on my first CD. The White Stripes have a song with the same title, but the one I’m talking about was originally written for (or is credited as being from) an Abbott and Costello movie, “Keep ‘Em Flying.” But forget all that. Who else but Billie Holiday to get to the heart of the matter?

Finally, no video available of this gorgeous poem by D. Nurkse, which explores the question of what love is as well as anything, and which I set to music. Performed here by Ken Filiano (bass) and yours truly (vocal). Rendezvous in Providence.

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2 Responses to What is Love? #letsblogoff

  1. Joseph says:

    Well, OK, if you’re going to take that tact, the song that best says love for me is “Play Me” by Neil Diamond. It has always been “our song,” because that’s me and the woman who came to be my wife in that song. I first heard it when we were dating and knew at once that it was meant for us, because it so truly captures the life I had before she came into my life and the life I have had since. And still have, and still have.

  2. Denese says:

    Andrea, nice to meet you… Love your thoughts (and songs) on love… I’m always amazed how songs can capture what’s deep in my heart. Words alone just don’t do it justice. I hope you’re moving around a bit easier now.

    Take care, fellow #letsblogoff -er, Denese

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