The heartbreak of a good tune

Every now and then I decide I want to find the “best” version of a song I particularly like. The latest is “Since I Fell for You.” It’s an interesting song. First, it is a pop / jazz “standard”, but unlike most standards, didn’t really get going until the 1960s. The lyrics are unoriginal – I fell in love, got dumped, I’ll never love again. The challenge for the composer and performer is to make the most common theme in music new and fresh.

There are over 800 entries on iTunes for the song and a lot of the versions are very sappy (Al Jarreau, Michael Bolton and other kings / queens of sap). Some good singers like Etta James do a bad version. Some famous artists do a surprisingly tasteful version – Willie Nelson for one. The melody is so strong that even a humdrum version will get you listening.

Most cuts of the song omit the introductory verse (“When you just give love, and never get love, You’d better let love depart”) – probably because the artist is afraid the listener won’t “get” the tune right away and might push the “advance” button. This is a shame, because it is the introduction, the anticipation, that makes the tune.

There are two good instrumental versions: Coleman Hawkins hot sax and the very cool Vince Guaraldi Trio. However, the version that floods my brain with nice chemistry is by Bonnie Raitt from 1971. This is early on in her career – her voice is clear and solid, her acoustic guitar playing exactly what the song and her voice need. It’s a live recording, so on some versions you get a lot of chit chat. It’s the last song in her set and I get the feeling she’s mostly singing for herself.

So why do happily married or no big life drama people love songs about the hurt of getting rejected? We probably don’t have that much to feel blue about. For sure we’re better off without most of our former romantic interests. Yet there’s something wonderful about feeling blue. It can be about the big rejection that causes excessive ice cream eating or drinking. It can also, like this song, be that wistful “I wonder” that pops up every now and then. We probably like the drama.

The version I love was never officially released by Raitt but is now available on iTunes and Amazon – there’s a remix by Raitt from the 90s that should be avoided at all costs.

There is some history of the song here and a number of low fidelity versions, including Raitt’s, here.

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One response to “The heartbreak of a good tune

  1. Everyone has guilty, cheesy pleasures – mine is Jennifer Garner in the serious Alias (or as my daughters and I used to call it “Running Down Halls”). So, the best of everything – Sydney Bristow (Garner) performing Since I Fell For You – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYTOwVPGjzU&feature=related

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