Wednesday, August 24, 2011

If Love Were All

Oh, my thoughts are with the songwriters presently, given the recent obituaries for Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford. (The latter who with his wife Valerie Simpson wrote such classics as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing", and so many more).

I reflect upon their impact in my life and how their words stay with me. I wonder about the permanence of a great song. I also shake my head at how indifferent I am to whatever passes for popular music today. Is it as good as the music I enjoyed growing up? Perhaps my silence is judgment enough. Or perhaps I think it best to not speak about something I know little about.

I'm happy to see that Barbara Streisand pays tribute to Alan and Marilyn Bergman on her latest release What Matters Most. I'm thrilled to see the title track revived. (I first heard Kenny Rankin perform it on his wonderful album After the Roses.) I look forward to hearing Barbra's version of "What Matters Most" along with other songs in the Bergman canon.

I caught Streisand on PBS last night performing at the Village Vanguard in 2009. This was a highly exclusive show that was chock full of celebrities like Bill Clinton and Sarah Jessica Parker among the 132 witnesses. I enjoyed it deeply. I am a sucker for nightclub performances, and this one had all the trappings: a tightly assembled audience, a rich red velvet curtain as backdrop, a trio that caressed every melody, and a singer who brought the lyrics to life.

What makes me sad was how dismissive I felt that New York Times critic Stephen Holden seemed in his review of Streisand's What Matters Most. Here's what he wrote. (Italics mine.)

...Barbra Streisand yearns, sighs, and cries through lyrics by her longtime friends and muses, Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Beyond the therapy-enlightened depictions of relationships at various stages is an unquestioned faith that the traditional happily-ever-after fade-out at the end of a romantic melodrama is an ideal worth pursuing...

"What Matters Most" epitomizes a venerable but failing genre that I like to call the Big Swoon.

All right. I know it's bad out there. But are you telling me that true love is passé? Or that I should rethink my definition of what constitutes true love?

Here's to any songwriter and singer willing to keep this "failing genre" alive!

Lordy, there's only so much change a fella like me can take!

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