By Katherine Cole
OK, enough with the hearts and flowers.
If you were anywhere near a newspaper, television or radio last week, you were probably made aware of the St. Valentine’s Day holiday — the most sickly sweet day of the year. And while many radio shows turned your stomach with songs of undying love and the like, this week on Roots and Branches, we’re examining the flip side. That’s right, time for songs about broken hearts and betrayal.
I could easily have filled the show (and a few more) solely with the music of Loudon Wainwright, III. After all, he’s released more than 25 records, filled mainly with stories of love lost, found, and squandered. But that wouldn’t allow you to revel in the misery of other great songwriters.
Such as Leonard Cohen. “That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” (found on both Cohen’s debut album and the soundtrack to Robert Altman’s film “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”) has to be one of the best break up songs ever. But if I have to pick one Leonard Cohen anti-love song to top all others, it would be this one.
“Famous Blue Raincoat” has been studied so deeply, I’m amazed there hasn’t been a book written about it. I’m sure there are several doctoral dissertations floating around. Originally found on Cohen’s 1971 album “Songs of Love And Hate,” the version above proves the song’s every bit as haunting 40-plus years later. It’s the kind of song that you understand less with each hearing, but want to listen again in hopes of figuring out the mystery. A common theory is that it’s about a lover’s triangle…though some say “Famous Blue Raincoat” is a letter Cohen wrote to himself. I suggest you listen a few dozen times and then share your interpretation in our comments section.
Needing much less study is this classic from Nancy Sinatra. Lee Hazelwood‘s songwriting took a few liberties with grammar, but his lyrics send a clear message! Nancy blogged about cover verisons of her biggest hit, but I don’t think any come close to her own interpretation of “These Boots Were Made For Walkin'”.
Rolling Stone ranks “I Can’t Make You Love Me” — sung by Bonnie Raitt on her 1991 album “Luck of the Draw” — as #339 on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” All I know is that it’s sadder than sad.
Roots and Branches this week features some of my favorite anti-love songs. Take a listen and then share the tunes you turn to when your heart is aching. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about a sad song that makes you feel so good!