“With the exception of grief, there’s hardly a life circumstance more painful than heartbreak.” ~ Kimberly Gillan
Would have to agree with the above quote, but likely divorce (whether heartbreak is involved or not) has to be right up there in ache1. Much of this came flooding back to my mind when USA Today highlighted a certain album as it reached its 50th anniversary this week. Moreover, this noteworthy LP also kicked off a particularly arduous year, so it didn’t take much for a few memories to drift in. Along with a treble of songs that marked the span in lament and lyric2.
“Please have your parents sign the form you’ll take home today so you will be allowed in class for the upcoming two-day session on S-E-X.”
As mentioned before, the cauldron of “high school” is unique for all of those who experience it. Roiling among your peers, learning how the world works (along with whatever curriculum your so-called “counselor” dictates for you). Let alone dealing with the hormone miasma teen bodies are actively pouring out, consequently changing the body in ways your high school health class has entire chapters on. All part of the ritualized hazing for reaching adolescence as you’ll get.
But the capper for these treacherous teenage years is when your heart gets really and truly broken. Those little crushes you may have had previously, admittedly don’t count. Just ask your mother the difference between false and real labor and she’ll soon make you understand the difference. It’s a flesh wound versus real trauma. Experiencing teen heartbreak once your reach puberty is when you honestly start to come of age. Everything else is just window dressing.
So, those three “H”s — hormones, high school, and heartbreak — stand out in a unique way. That triad can make you do some nutty things. My passage came during my junior year; specifically in 19713. Plus, to give it that extra zing, was also bequeathed my first broken bone via an automobile accident4 that Spring after a gymnastics meet. The above brew coaxed me to drive down that fateful street to see if I could catch a glimpse of the girl I pined for since she was soon to graduate.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
“Of course they would be women.”
Luckily, I could find temporary safe harbor in the music of the period. Either by the radio5 or what I’d throw on the small, plastic-encased portable turntable gifted a previous Christmas that was in my bedroom. Three in particular during this age captured the heartache so very clearly; crystalized it in a way so that whenever I hear them decades later, will shoot me back to this point in time. Sung by three extraordinary singers — no doubt, my longtime bride will roll her lovely eyes on that.
Artist: Linda Ronstadt
Released: June 1970
Written by: Gary White
Length: 2:59 (single) 4:18 (album)
Long, Long Time — While this song was initially released the previous summer, and I’d naturally glom on to it then, the tune would be the first I’d reach for when all this was occurring. Especially since it was done by the same person who rendered Michael Nesmith’s Different Drum so unforgettably6. The number already has an emotional core, yet in the hands of someone with such a distinct voice, couldn’t help but ache right along with her to the point it displaced my pain momentarily.
Artist: Brenda & The Tabulations
Released: January 1971
Label: Top and Botton
Written by: Van McCoy, Joe Cobb
Length: 3:18 (single]
Right on the Tip of My Tongue — with its fine drum, keyboard, and string intro, I was hooked with this Philly group from the start. Then, the lyrics kicked in and I soon learned what lament genuinely promised. As Andrew Hamilton stated, “The ascending and descending backing voices and Brenda’s innocent spoken touches on the fade are pure magic.” With Dry Your Eyes and this7, always thought it portended great things for the lead singer, but the song’s other lesson was simply, time is luck8.
Artist: Carole King
Released: April 1971
Label: A&M Records
Written by: Carole King, Toni Stern
Length: 3:51 (single)
It’s Too Late — This is what started the whole nagging anecdote by reaching fifty in 2021. If there’s a song that exemplified the decade by way of its rhapsodic torment of breaking up with someone, it’s Tapestry‘s lead single9. One that Carole King gave an alluringly lucid voice to. The tune’s first few chords, like those listed above, will defy whatever moment you’re in when the tune comes into earshot. Like another that harkens me back, this was the ’70s in song, whether brokenhearted teens knew it or not.
- While I blessedly haven’t, my mother certainly did and her children took note. ↩
- A certain Mighty Dells number also “seconds the emotion” (thank you, Smokey), but that one was already covered in a Friday Forgotten Song post a few years back. ↩
- Oh, and my bed would dance around room when Los Angeles suffered a 6.5 Richter scale earthquake, centered in Sylmar, at 6 AM on February 9, 1971. ↩
- Broken jaw care of the steering wheel after my 1963 Ford Falcon station wagon suddenly met up with a 1935 Pontiac on Dearborn Avenue in the city of South Gate. My younger brother was also in the car when this happened, but he only suffered a scratch when his hard head cracked my car’s windshield. ↩
- Mostly care of AM radio, but many on the FM dial were just starting to reap my interest. ↩
- This was Ronstadt’s first hit record as a solo artist; her 1967 song “Different Drum” was attributed to The Stone Poneys. It would spend 12-weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100, peaking at number 25. ↩
- Top 10 in Billboard’s R&B chart, and would reach #23 in their Top 100. ↩
- Brenda J. Payton Hill, singer and producer, passed away from complications of breast cancer on 14 Jun 1992; she was 46. ↩
- It reached number 1 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. The album and single sold millions, and were later gold-certified by the RIAA. “Billboard ranked “It’s Too Late” and its fellow A-side, “I Feel the Earth Move“, as the No. 3 record for 1971.” ~ Wikipedia ↩