Music, and the musicians who bring it to us, enriches our lives beyond measure, and from time-to-time its our honor to get insight and detail on the songs and music that are a part of our lives. We are extremely proud and grateful to guest contributor Glen Burtnik for sharing his thoughts and insights with us on a pop music standard.

 

By Glen Burtnik, September 21, 2016

I remember when this song was a hit record. As a kid, I knew it was obviously effective to a wide audience as it was so popular on Glen Burtnik - popdose.comthe radio that it eventually seemed over played. But after not hearing it for a long time, years, a Facebook friend posted it on their wall recently and I listened with a more educated ear. Quite frankly, it blew me away as a beautifully performed, well written and seamlessly arranged pop record.


First of all, I don't know how many bona fide smash hits start with just bass guitar and vocal (+ teeny hi hat), but I of course must give it props for that alone. And vibes as the primary chording instrument? Very cool. The little guitar chinks are a lovely 60s–style of guitar playing that is all but extinct today (though Rocky Weekling has certainly been employing the technique on the soon to be released “Studio 2” album).

Horns and drums enter for verse two (again, cool).

And then the arrangement subtly picks things up by modulating to a new key, up a half-step, in which the female background singers join in.

As if that weren't enough, verse four modulates up another half-step.

As does the following verse!

Somehow, all of these key changes aren't jarring to me. Perhaps it's the nostalgic familiarity with having heard this song so many times back when I was in my preteen years, or maybe it's the fairly clean recording and smooth arrangement (sans over-present bass drum, cracking backbeat nor distorted guitar “power chords”).


As for the artist, I wish I could say I can name a single other song by this guy, but I can't. Nevertheless, this singer handles the vocal range of this song in four keys like he's sitting comfortably beside you on a relaxing couch. He plays with the melody only slightly, enough to keep things interesting and certainly his upper rasp, which only appears in one or two verses, only helps the convincing impression that this guy is really sincere about this lyric.

 
Now you may think I'm totally being a mush by extolling the virtues of this little pop ditty from so long ago – my eleven year-old self wouldn't have read this far – but I can't help it. I like analyzing what would make such a seemingly simple record as successful as it seemed to have been, at least in my memory.


But here's the thing that has always haunted me about the record – something I've always been aware of: This sweet lyric, a simple confession of love is delivered in a minor key – usually the foundation for stories of sadness. That always seemed unusual to me, as if a song with that minor melody in that minor key might suggest more of a story about MISSING the girl instead of being happily in love.


Upon reading up on the artist, Bobby Hebb, I learned he apparently wrote this song soon after his brother’s murder, which took place the day after JFK’s assassination. Mr. Hebb denied any connection between his calmly uplifting song and the fact that he was reportedly “devastated” by the two tragedies. "All my intentions were just to think of happier times – basically looking for a brighter day – because times were at a low tide,” he said.


In any case, the record is wonderful. And I’m pretty thrilled to live in an age where I can be reminded of these cultural chestnuts from my own lifetime, revisit them and look them up online.