i received reader mail this morning from a friend to this site. i hope in discussing her case that i keep on the right side of propriety--and that she'll email me asking for an edit if she finds anything to her disliking.
she's going through a situation not unfamiliar to your correspondent, having to let go of someone she cares about. like me--like so many of us for whom music is a constant companion, she's making him a mix, one w/ what i think is a lovely conceit. she came to me seeking a song that begins w/ the letter "y." (why? i won't tell!) she wasn't necessarily looking for a love song, but she weren't agin it.
in love, "y" is the most loaded letter in the alphabet as so many of the song titles begin w/ "you." (i eagerly await the stephin merritt concept album. after all he already has "you, you, you, you, you.") it's multi-purpose : it allows one a place to hide (like poor, haunted julie london); it commands ("you need love"); it informs ("you are my sunshine"); it accuses ("you tore me down"); it bears malice ("you'll never find another love like mine"). above all, though, and in direct opposition to "i," it apostrophizes, it calls out to an absent figure. it's not surprising that my dear reader needed someone else to suggest a song for this letter.
i treaded lightly while making suggestions, adding what i thought of each in relation to her situation in parentheticals. this might not have been necessary, only she could say really, but i think the mixmaking process is such a fantastic shield against the future; that it's something one really indulges in, its construction allowing--or even requiring its maker to engage in reverie, to call up songs inextricably wedded to moments. and so as i was generating suggestions, and as she was throwing out ideas, i too was taken back (and aback).
... and after while of that, i've had enough, and it occurs to me to just recommend "young americans."
ah, but we persist! b/c we have no other viable choice. and so tonight i post :
dean martin - "you belong to me" (from the dino : the essential dean martin lp, available for purchase here.)
it's 1952. "you belong to me" is the latest work from songwriter pee wee king, best known for 1947's "tennessee waltz." within weeks of each other, sue thompson, joni james, patti page, jo stafford, and dean martin recorded versions of the record, w/ stafford's version coming out on top, #1 on both the u.s. & u.k. charts, becoming the first song by a female singer to top the latter.
dino's version defamiliarizes b/c it inverts the song's v. familiar opening lines. perhaps this is why his version only went to #12; perhaps the audience identified this as a "female" song, much as they did w/ "tennessee waltz" (even though both songs were written by men!). how could a woman in the 50's be doing the extensive traveling that the object of the song is doing? and why wouldn't dino be at her side? also, there's the "these boots are made for walkin'" factor. lee hazlewood sang the song before nancy, but she had the hit : such words were less threatening and more palatable coming out of female's mouth. (unless, of course, the female is jessica simpson and the male is nick lachey. now that we know who wore the boots in that relationship, it just seems cruel.)
but that's oversimplifying things, turning a deaf ear to the tenuousness of dino's claim, to the unsung "... please?" that implicitly follows the titular command, to his need to remind her to remember. if she belongs to him, it's only by her leave, but she's happy to let him think he has a great claim on her, esp. if it'll keep him from worrying too much as he tries to calculate what time it is where she is now. it might have been this sensitivity, then, that doomed his version. maybe women weren't ready for such vulnerability from dean martin. from frank, yes, but from dino?
and maybe it's not the boldness of the claim, but the vulnerability that it hints at that scuppers this as a mixtape selection. (i'm sorry!) there is a silver lining, i think. though you and s/he may not be in the same city, state, or area code, wherever you are--however remote--is still a destination; and there's always, as "you belong to me" demonstrates, a silver plane that knows the way back. people have a heartening habit of returning when you need them most, i believe that. the best you can do for now is let them know they'll be welcome when they do.