Louis Armstrong Back in the Day

Louis Armstrong Back in the Day
With His Signature White Handkerchief and Smile

The significance of the blues aesthetic for those who are not professionally conversant in musical notation or the academic discipline of music or jazz history.

Sunday, January 11

Amy Winehouse

Rehab was her recent hit and the beginning of my awareness of this talented young lady with the troubled life. But when I heard this song, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? which is a classic of the 60s girl groups--in particular the Shirelles--it sent me reeling back to those times.

When the Shirelles sang it in 1961, making it one of the first black r&b (crossover) hits of the 1960s, I was 9 and we were on our way to Europe on the S.S. Liberte, a cruise ship. I was on the brink of the happiest adventure of my life. In the background, were considerations raised by this song. Would I ever meet a boy I liked and who liked me? What would the children be like in Europe, my head swimming with the legends of love in Paris. It is true I was only nine years old but I had lots of fantasies that summer already of what it would be like to be a fully formed teenager (I was not. I was even small and under-developed for my age). To make it all even worse, I had eczema on my arms and my neck, although it would not spread to my face until the following year.

We had great fun with the other kids on the boat exploring the different classes with the friendly assistance of the boat staff but they were all clearly kids. We were in the tourist class, which was still quite lavish to my American eyes although the cabins were very compact. There was also a Cabin Class, a Second Class and a First Class as I recall with minute differentiations in the accommodations and services at each level--larger dining rooms, larger more lavishly furnished sitting rooms, bigger bathrooms, everything looking increasingly as though it wasn't on a ship at all.  Thanks to the congenial atmosphere of the boat, our band of kids were allowed to roam everywhere unfettered.

Actually, we were looking for Bob Hope who was rumored to be on the boat in First Class.  He was on the boat but we never found him, or rather he never presented himself to us.  I have since met somebody who was on that boat in First Class then who spent some time with Bob Hope on that voyage.  From what I hear we didn't miss much. 

When we got to Paris, we realized we weren't going to see many children close-up for Parisian parents sent all their children to the country in the summers. Sometimes we saw large herds of French children being carefully chaperoned to an unknown destination, maybe a camp. But we met one little girl in Paris whose mother lived in the West Bank hotel where we stayed from whom I promptly began to learn French.

As for Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (one of Carole King's great hits) and the position it occupies in my memories of the 60s, to me it was or it became about young black girls kissing their young boyfriends goodbye as they left for the battlefields of Vietnam, not knowing whether he would ever return or things would ever be the same and having to make the decision quickly, on a moonlit temperate night with some degree of privacy, as to whether she should have sex with him on the basis of immediate demand.

Would he still love me tomorrow? It wasn't considered morally acceptable to have sex with him if she was not married or even if she was only engaged although lots of girls did--of course I would not have known all of that at nine or ten or eleven or twelve maybe.

Would he still love her when he came back from Vietnam? Would he still marry her once he had been with Vietnam babes and white girls, which would almost certainly occur in his travels?

And unspoken but nonetheless the most important thing of all--would he be worth marrying and sticking with for the rest of her life? What would be her life? Would she regret her choices--of having sex with him, or marrying him or marrying somebody else? Probably. But the logic of the irresistible romance about the possibilities could only make sense to a pre-adolescent female mind at the dawn of the 60s Sexual Revolution. Or so I thought back then and since then.

But Winehouse's version is stunning to me. It's about entirely different stuff as well it should be after all we've been through--STDs and HIV and cervical cancer and vaginal warts and what not (as Big Mama Thornton might say!) The earlier Shirelles and the 60s discourse is woven in there, at least for me for whom the whole listening experience is a time bubble.

But Winehouse does her very very slow version (slowing it down is a great blues technique for only the masters such as the Marvin Gayes or the Aretha Franklins, with a song everybody has heard a million times), with an orchestral arrangement made in heaven, serious drums and such. Deeply beautiful and yet simple, which is the core strength of the song since the beginning. But then this is a very hard song to mess up, both short and sweet, one of those miracles of popular songwriting.

As for the sociological/psychological aspect--which has shifted slightly from the 60s through the first decade of the 21st century, Winehouse has already had sex with her man, and moreover she is actually talking about a more fully realized love between a man and a woman, sexual and then some but more than likely not forever, not that eternal love. In fact, she specifies tomorrow not forever. The still relevant question remains what's love got to do, got to do with it?

Will you still love me tomorrow?

Do you even love me tonight?

Are you able to love?

Am I?

Also, from a young woman's point of view, what is wrong with men that they can't get this anyway?

This song as recorded here by Winehouse in 2004 I've discovered, comes from the British version of a movie soundtrack still not released in the US, which I am assuming is why this single recording is popping up all over Youtube like daisies in the springtime.  Had to buy the whole album to get the song. But it was worth it. 


Michele Wallace said...
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Barbara Wallace said...
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Michele Wallace said...
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