How We Love

…is a song by Gretchen Parlato, introduced to me by the only person for whom I’d pass up an evening with Quentin Tarantino’s record and red wine collection.

How We Love is but one verse and one refrain.  If it speaks to you though — if it addresses how you love your Love, one verse and one refrain is all you need.

If it speaks to you.

When I was a kid, I usedta lie in bed at night listening to my walkman, hoping one day I’d know the kinda love that Boyz II Men and them usedta be singin about.  Back then, I liked the songs but I couldn’t tell you why.  They definitely made me feel a kind of way, but I wasn’t sure why or how or what about.  I remember hearing Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last” and asking my mama if folks really sang about what they felt or if it was all made up, just something to record so the people might like it, and buy it.  I grew up concerned about whether or not the cats from 2 Live Crew really were like dogs in heat, freaks without warning?  Did they really prefer their ladies face down, and ass up?  I wondered:  what about her face, Uncle Luke?  What’s wrong with her face?

In all fairness, I can’t compare cats famous for “Me So Horny” with a tender songstress.  It’s condoms apples and oranges; it’s wrong.  It’s just wrong.

Today, many years removed from wishful thinking about love, what I can comfortably speak to is the redeeming, the spiritual, the fortifying power of love, and of love songs.  Unfortunately, much of what’s currently marketed to mainstream audiences has little to do with love.  Mainstream music created after the New Jack Swing era and the R&B roaring nineties is almost completely devoid of real feeling.  It processes virtually every emotion through the filter of sex.  In 2011, love equals sex after someone pays consistently for both the dinner and the movie; and tenderness is sex set to the soulful sounds of your dopest Trey Songz mix.   Y’all be makin love faces nshit.  Good ol love faces.  That’s tenderness, right?

I roll my eyes at so-called Songz, but I get it.  I get what y’all get out of it.  I need more though.  I need a girl with a voice like Gretchen Parlato’s.  To sing the single verse and the single refrain.  Because I feel that she felt “slowing down creates such a beautiful melody/sounds up in the sky all realize/that you and I will go on and on/and on and on/and on…and oh how you love me/oh how we love.”  Yes, yes.  We will go on and on.  I feel it too, girl.  I don’t just get it.  You see the difference?

Listen:

Most of what speaks to me is old.  Like 60s, 70s, and 80s old.  Because them hairy chested, big bearded cats like Teddy Pendergrass and The Whispers understood love (which also could have been substituted for sex, but done so with much more class than these contemporary cats can muster).   And they sang it from the soul.  I don’t know if y’all know Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes like that, but you should.  “I Miss You” is so motherfucking soulful.

Listen:

you can look at my eyes and see/ that a great big man like me has been/cryin,cryin,cryin/cryin my soul and heart out to you…

Like, I miss her for him.

My folks listened to a lot of The Stylistics, The Spinners, The Whispers, and Heatwave.  I came to more diverse soul music a little later in life, largely thanks to @shutupandsing — the only person for whom I’d pass up an evening with Quentin Tarantino’s record and red wine collection.  Because I’m convinced hers is slightly mo’ betta than his.

Although I grew up sort of  ’round-about knowing Aretha Franklin, I was really introduced to the Queen of Soul around 4 years ago.  And I challenge you, too, to not feel this.  2:51-3:30, specifically.

Listen:

And if you don’t feel it, you are in fact soul-less.  Some people just are.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Or maybe it is.  No judgement.  But probably, there’s judgement.

One day during one of those sessions where there’s music and smoke and cold, cold wine, I wished to redo 1974-1978.  I wished to be part of one of those basement parties with the blue lights, where brothas and sistas rocked big ass afros, or sistas worked a feathered Farrah Fawcett better than Farrah herself did.  Indeed, one of them joints where Black 80s babies were likely conceived.  I imagine Soul and afro sheen to be the most salacious of aphrodisiacs during that era.  And in all seriousness, how were you not givin it up whilst slow winding in the almost-dark as Cameo’s “Sparkle” spins?

Listen for yourself:

I get particularly amorous around 2:12, and it only gets better from there.  The brotha sings, “you make me wanna love you.”  Yaaaaaaas…

I think what I hate most about contemporary music is the way it dismisses love, or dilutes it to get to the sex.  You’re right, love is not a necessary component of sex, but love is intimacy.  It’s those moments when time is defined succinctly as either sun-up or sun-down, because the minutiae of minutes, seconds, and hours are trite compared to what goes down between them.  Without question, intimacy makes sex so much more than “love” faces.  It makes music so much more than verses and choruses, and life much more than “day in and day out.”  Intimacy gets all up in your shit.  It’s when head and heart unzip breeches and unclasp brassieres, and feels nothing like regret the morning after.

I love love, and I love love songs.  I’ve tried to give you a lil taste here.  But there’s one song in particular that has always risen a bit above the rest.  Its lyrics are outrageous, as are the cats’ mustaches, but the sentiment is fucking perfection.  The song is “Say Yes” by the Whispers.  My parents LOVED this song, and so do I.  Listen closely for the following lyrics:

  • I wanna soak into you like rain/make love until my energy drains/and as lust erases all shame/you’ll scream my name/out of pleasure not pain/if you just say yes

AS LUST ERASES ALL SHAME!!

  • …ooh like raindrops on a flower/come bathe in my love shower/then let me blow/your body dry/kiss the tears from your sexy eyes…

LET ME BLOW YOUR BODY DRY?!  Say word.  Blow it dry??

  • I wanna build/you a dream home/made of love not just wood and stone/give you the deed to all that I own/give you love beyond limit/give you babies in our image…

Give you the deed to all. that.  I.  own.

Listen:

Now, if any regular somebody carried on like this, I’d be mad skeptical.  We don’t love this way, nor do we talk about love this way anymore.  But we should.  We definitely should.

As an epilogue to this great literary work, please find LTD below.  And simply let it play.

You’re welcome.

With love,

M.A.G.

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About moniquealicia

M.A.G. is a doctoral student at Howard University. She resides in the Washington, DC metro area, and is passionate about her love of family and friends, politics and conversation, and the exceptional meal. View all posts by moniquealicia

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