Throughout my youth my mother had repeatedly pined,”Ahh, I would give my right arm for hair like that.” She’d always point but I wouldn’t need to look, knowing the object of her coveting was a thick afro-shaped mane of tiny ringlets. I never shared her fanatical obsession with hair, but I’d consider sacrificing an arm or two to be able to soul-sing like Otis Redding. He bled through his voice. The only other singer I can think of who has come close to that level of translatable communion was Janis Joplin, and she was highly influenced by (hand over heart) “my man, Otis.”
Despite dying at only 26 years old in a plane crash fifty years ago, his gospel-flavored, timeless songs resurface again and again in my life, inspiring poetry and shaping milestones. Our first dance at our wedding was a half-and-half: the first being the sweet instrumental “Ride Into the Sun” by Velvet Underground, followed by the upbeat, farcical duet “Tramp” by Otis Redding, featuring Carla Thomas. But as far as which song to use in this lyric series, after a month of replaying his albums and serious deliberation over which song’s lyrics can most be felt in the actual music, I’m going with the 1965 track, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)” by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler.
The lyrics aren’t particularly moving when simply read, as rarely a plea of personal heartbreak would be. But when one hears at the end climax, “I love you, I love you with all my heart…and I can’t stop now!” along with the two chords of crescendoing horns and piano swinging eighth notes, there is a sense of clinging to the cliff of denial to stave off the inevitable fall into the ocean of despair. I feel you, poor lover! Let the music be your sole consolation.
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
I’ve been loving you too long to stop now
You were tired and you want to be free
My love is growing stronger, as you become a habit to me
Oh I’ve been loving you a little too long
I don’t want to stop now, oh
With you my life
Has been so wonderful
I can’t stop now
You were tired and your love is growing cold
My love is growing stronger as our affair affair grows old
I’ve been loving you a little too long, long
To stop now
Oh, oh, oh
I’ve been loving you a little bit too long
I don’t want to stop now no, no, no
Don’t make me stop now, no baby
I’m down on my knees please, don’t make me stop now
I love you, I love you
I love you with all of my heart
And I can’t stop now
Please, please don’t make me stop now!
2017, Amaya Engleking
*This is the second post of the series, Lyrical Love, in which I feature a song on the first Friday of the month. These songs are not exceptional solely in lyricism or in instrumentation, but these two components are perfectly matched to create exquisite compositions. I’d love to hear further suggestions on songs that meet this criteria. Thank you for reading/listening.