Pardon the absence. You see, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. Watching all the crap emanate from all the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve performances, coupled with the inexplicable rise of the foul-mouthed Ke$ha (more on that later this week), has me mourning for the death of popular music. 2010 is not starting out well for me.
When this happens, I turn to my iPod, and like an old codger who plays his dusty Benny Goodman 78-rpm records over and over, I play the songs I know and love. I hit the “My Top Rated” playlist containing 5-star-rated songs and lose myself in good music.
A few days ago, Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” found its way into the rotation, and I relished in the perfection of that song. It’s one of the last truly classic Elton John songs; several years later, he would retreat into adult contemporary oblivion with such light filler as “Sacrifice” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
A medium-tempo number, the song has a throwback 50s sound, led by Elton’s bluesy (no pun intended) piano playing and Stevie Wonder’s harmonica solo. Bernie Taupin’s lyrics are spot on and earnest, with gems such as “Wait on me girl/Cry in the night if it helps/But more than ever I simply love you/More than I love life itself.”
But what Sir Elton does so well – and throughout his career he has done this – is create a paradox in the music. Even though it’s medium tempo and in a major key, there’s an overall wistful feeling that at times tugs hard at your heart. The nostalgic sound further adds to the confusion, creating contentment while planting the seeds of longing and remembrance.
Below is the original video for the song; like many 80s videos, it tells a story within the lyrics – that of a GI leaving his girl for boot camp and longing for her as she fights temptation from another man. It’s a perfect complement to the poignant song.