Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The 4th Greatest Love Song (3 tries)

4. Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen (1975)

I've written about the opening two lines before. Today I'll talk about the rest of the song. First of all it has no chorus. I can think of very few chorusless pop/rock songs (Maggie May comes to mind.) It's one of the great songs about escape and it shares that with at least one of the songs on the list (the more dour Long Vermont Roads). But Bruce doesn't want to escape alone. He wants to bring Mary with him, to get away from "the town full of losers." Wait a second. This isn't a love song. He'd leave without her. What about a song where someone wants to leave (or stay) in a town with one of those losers? What about...

4. Fast Car - Tracy Chapman (1988)

Nah. She doesn't love him. She really doesn't. This isn't a love song either. What about...

4. Tower of Song - Leaonard Cohen (1988)

You didn't think I'd forget about Leonard, did you? The thing about this song is that it really isn't thought of as a love song. It's about a man exiled to a "tower of song":

Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day
In the tower of song

He boasts of his gift of the golden voice (a line that got ironic chuckles at a the two Cohen concerts I've attended but who among us has a more golden voice?) and tosses off a bitter verse that almost unveils the reason for his exile. But then the final verse, the only one unequivocably about love and the one where Leonard sheds a tear (listen to how he says "got" in the second line) and we know why he sent himself to the tower:

I see you standing on the other side
I dont know how the river got so wide
I loved you baby, way back when
And all the bridges are burning that we might have crossed
But I feel so close to everything that we lost
Well never have to lose it again

And after the 27 (or 2) angels again sing their background hymns and Cohen catches his throat, he's back in the tower laughing on the outside but not on the inside. It's no surprise he spent half the 90s in a Zen buddhist mountain retreat.

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