A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I've been using the library to get my hands on boxed sets collecting old soul and R&B singles by the big labels, including these marvelous, mammoth Stax/Volt collections that have felt like a portal into a whole new world of music I somehow never got exposed to. (Keep in mind, my dad decided those drug-taking, sexpot Beatles ruined music; he also thinks the Beach Boys were clean-cut young men.)

In the latest set I have, collecting tunes from 1968 through 1971, I found a song that I must public ally declare my new favorite sad song of all time:

Carla Thomas - "I Loved You Like I Love My Very Life"

My goodness, that is so direct, so honest. I used to say Spiritualized's "Broken Heart" was my favorite for that reason, but now that song sounds like 18th-century verse in comparison to Carla Thomas' track. Every time she sings about having a hard time breathing, I realize I have a lump in my throat, too. There is no pretense, no need to hide behind metaphor or glossy language. Carla just sings it like it is.

I've been a Carla Thomas fan for a little over a year now, ever since I decided to finally track down earlier versions of the song "You'll Lose a Good Thing," which I know from the mournful, almost contemptuous McAlmont & Butler version. Her voice has a warm, syrupy quality, but at the same time, her delivery is very unassuming, like she is so confident she doesn't need to show off by over harmonizing or tossing around unnecessary notes. She can mess around and have fun (her duet with Otis Redding, "Tramp," is fantastic) when she wants to, but when she goes for the emotional jugular as she does on "I Loved You..." the depth of meaning she manages to convey is astounding. The song particularly struck me right about now as it's like a compact version of 5 1/2. Songs like this that make me think of my books end up soundtracking trailers I cut in my head, helping me to get directly to the mood I am hoping to achieve in the story.

And, of course, there is the finality of it all. This song is all past tense. Not just the love she had for whomever she is singing about, but you can also interpret the phrase "I loved you like I love my very life" that she is placing her life in the past, too: I loved both of these things, and now they are gone. What happens next to her is still in question, but she's making it clear that just about everything she cared for is now gone. There is still hope, sure, she hasn't yet changed it to "I loved my very life," but it sure feels like things are going that way.

"I Loved You Like I Love My Very Life" will join the ever-expanding playlist for 5 1/2, perhaps starting a second playlist, as I like the complete nature of the first list (which has been amended since I posted it, with Otis' "Try a Little Tenderness" being dropped in after the Suede). It will likely be followed by the recently discovered Baby Washington and her song, "Hey Lonely." I found it at Mod-Centric, and you can download it from them. It's amazing how songs come along at just the right time, that you hear them and think, "Gosh, that makes so much sense, that's exactly what I want right now." Suddenly your iPod becomes like those Russian dolls, each one opening up to reveal another one. So, the Carla Thomas track leads to the Baby Washington track, and so on. This morning, as I was climbing out of the shower, my shuffle landed on Elvis Costello's "Sleep of the Just," off of the King of America album, and it was like, "Oh, yes," and now the playlist has a third song. LastFM has the full track.

Pecking around on YouTube to find sharable versions of some of these songs, I found some cool alternate versions of both "Sleep of the Just" and "You'll Lose a Good Thing" that I thought were worth sharing.

Current Soundtrack: shufflin' paint: Camera Obscura, the Thrills (anyoen else ever notice the Gatsby reference in "No More Empty Words"?), Del the Funkee Homosapien, Blur, Patti Smith (covering "Gimme Shelter"), Dr. Octagon, Morrissey, N*E*R*D

Current Mood: how does it feel to feel?

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All text (c) 2008 Jamie S. Rich

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