The Joy of Heartbreak
Here I am writing novels--correction, a novel--in which we see people at their best and, especially, at their worst. The game is all about the emotional range of the people we write about. It really shows up when we talk about Love. And who covers the subject more achingly than Aretha Franklin? I urge you to give these amazing songs a listen. They're all available online.
What about you? How do you navigate love's terrain? You call yourself a lover? You ain't nothin' compared to Aretha. You never loved as hard or as hopelessly as she did. In "Never Loved A Man, she takes up with a liar and a cheat. And despite being mistreated ("How could you hurt me so bad?") , she can't bring herself to leave the guy. She "can't sleep at night or eat a bite" but won't leave because he's "got his hooks" in her.. Who wouldn't want to experience love with such abandon?
But in "Natural Woman," when her "soul was in the lost and found," she makes a 180. Another guy comes along and gets her to wonder, "Oh, baby, what you've done to me. You make me feel so good inside." Even though those lyrics first occurred to Carol King, why quibble when she invites you to grab happiness by the short hairs and use it for your own selfish pleasure..
But it's torture, this love business, as she explains in "Ain't No Way." Here she is telling her guy how much she needs him but he won't let her. Oh, he says the right words, but if you've ever thrown yourself at someone who can't reciprocate. you can understand why there ain't no way or hope for this couple.
You want desperation? In “Until You Come Back to Me, she's got a guy who spurned her so she lays out how far she's willing to go to get him back in her life. Here's the list.
Begging (never a good sign)
Swallowing her pride
Rapping on his window pan, and
Camping on his doorstep.
Until you've gone this far for love, how can you call yourself. a lover?
“Say A Little Prayer” is about obsesssion. Aretha and her man are apart. Supposedly, he was soldiering in Viet Nam. Despite her fears, she puts a positive spin on their romantic possibilities. She's constantly thinking and wondering about him. ("The moment I wake up before I put on my makeup, I say a little prayer for you.") Whether combing her hair, wondering what to wear, running for the bus, or sitting through a coffee break ("We never will part" is her prayer]. you've got to hand it to songwriters, this one in particular for their willingness to put a brave face on their private pain.
That's how much heartbreak Aretha Franklin has put us through. And we've loved every minute.