Learning About Love From Rock and Roll

September 1, 2010

Creative Commons photo courtesy of suchitra prints

Growing up, I learned about love from my family, especially my parents and grandparents.  I learned through their actions (and sacrifices) and their words (“I love you”).  Looking back I feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up in such a loving family where I always felt that people cared for me.

But there was another kind of love that I was clueless about when I was younger – romantic love.  Like most kids I learned (or thought that I learned) about love through music, especially rock and roll.  One of my earliest memories of romantic love happened when I watched the ever-popular movie of the time, Grease.  I still remember the scene where Sandy, played by Olivia Newton-John sang the ballad “Hopelessly Devoted to You” to Danny, played by John Travolta.  While I could sense the love and devotion of the characters, I was absolutely clueless about love.

Around that time, I remember a very famous love song that my mother used to play all the time, Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.”  I knew it was a love song by the mood and tone of the music, but I had no idea what “light” had to do with it.  And I knew is that it sounded cheesy and really sappy.  If this song was about love, I wanted no part of it.

Another love song I remember hearing on the radio back in those early days was 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love,” a crazy, trippy song that caught my attention every time it played in the car.  Whatever love was, the singer kept saying – even shouting at times, that he wasn’t in love.  I was still oblivious to (pardon the Huey Lewis song reference) the power of love at that point in my life.

Also around that time, while hanging with my friends, we threw on their parents’ early Journey album which featured “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”  While I knew what love was, I didn’t know that it also involved touching and squeezing.  What was that all about?  I also remember listening to early Foreigner and their song “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” It was a love song…I could tell by the tender, soft mood of the song and mention of a surviving love.  But I had no clue what the songwriter was “waiting” for or even that love could survive or even not survive, for that matter.

By the time I was a teenager, I began to understand more about romantic love.  I’d heard hundreds of love songs by that point in my life. Which reminds me of a Frank Zappa book I read in my teen years, The Real Frank Zappa Book.  I barely knew who he was when I read it but I remember something Zappa wrote that stuck with me (I am paraphrasing here): love songs are, single-handedly, responsible for most of the depression and psychological problems that adults face.  While he may have exaggerated this a bit, he might have been onto something.

I was also beginning to learn a little about love through the music I listened to.  I remember a song off Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason called “One Slip,” which had an interesting line that has always stuck with me:

“Was it love or was it the idea of being in love?”

Wow, that was deep!  As a teenager, this profound thought hit me at an important time.  That song somehow planted a seed to help me distinguish between real, genuine love and infatuation. It also forced me to question whether the love in my life at that point was genuine.  I figured out pretty fast that it probably wasn’t.

Another of my favorite bands from my teen years, Queensryche, also wrote a song about love that made me think – “I Don’t Believe In Love” off their platinum-selling concept album, Operation: Mindcrime.  It was a bit disturbing to hear their singer, Geoff Tate, profess that he didn’t believe in love.  ‘Huh, you don’t believe in love?  Are you crazy?’ I thought.  I later realized that it was the character in the concept album who believed this after learning that the woman he loved died.  By that time, I was learning that while love could be a wonderful thing, it could also be challenging and painful.

Now that I’m older, I take the lyrics in “love songs” with a grain of salt.  These days, “love songs” have become more explicit and the lines between love and lust have become blurred.  In some ways, I worry about our youth being exposed to all of this.  But I suppose our parents and grandparents felt this way when Elvis was popular.

Say what you will about love songs, they aren’t going away anytime soon. These songs can offer us an opportunity to feel the beauty of love and sometimes its complexities and pain.  But if you listen closely, you might hear some nuggets of wisdom that you can somehow apply to your life situation and possibly provide some comfort.

Creative commons photo courtesy of suchitra prints.

1 Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point September 1, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Hi Tim, I clicked over from Lori’s awesome blog. I also participated in this month’s lovefest and I’m trolling for some RAOKA blogo-love!

I enjoyed reading your post. Very funny in some parts (yeah, touching and squeezing must sound bizarre if not out of context to a five year old!) and very much relatable for me as songs are a big part of my life (I happen to be married to a musician who writes me love songs). And I have to give you props for mentioning Olivia Newton-John’s song Hopelessly Devoted to You! It was a ubiquitous song for me as well at such a young age).

And yes, I agree wholeheartedly that a well written love song (whether romantic or more all-encompassing like We Are the World) is a ripe vehicle that can shine a light to our universal and personal experiences of love, loss, longing and other feelings that are all part of being truly alive.

Great to meet you and I wish you lots of love!

2 The Exception September 1, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I think I am pretty happy I heard the Touching and Squeezing song later in life… 😉
Girls grow up listening to the love songs “this is the song I will play at my wedding.” Not to mention “this is our song.” There is a romantic attachment to them that is both touching and yet somewhat scary. The love that is in songs is often not the love that makes the world go round. Yet i listen to them anyway as do we all. They are such a part of life – the heart ache, the tingling – the “aw” the idea that there is something so wonderful that it is the object of songs and poems – and to be the one that the songs are written for? Now that is romantic!
And yet, what I teach my daughter is about acceptance; about choice; and about giving without expectation. It isn’t the love she sees in marriages or the love in the songs or the lust… it is the love the I model and our friends model and the one that we give and talk about.
Great and fun post!

3 Keith September 1, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Hello Tim!

From one rocker to another, I say great post! I love how you used these songs to describe your journey to an understanding of love. Very cool idea!

Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

4 Lori September 1, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Hi Tim,
Holy Love Songs, Batman, this is awesome.
I laughed so hard when I read, “If this song was about love, I wanted no part of it,” regarding You Light Up My Life. So funny, I could tell you so many funny stories about lip synching-singing this song into a hairbrush after breaking up with who was sure to have been the love of my life, but all for naught.
(tears, sob, …who wants cake?) ha ha

I know you and you live life with fervor and through music. So, this post spoke to me on so many levels, sure, via the words and music, but to also learn more about how you have traveled your road, per se.

Also fun to see the comments here. Hi everyone!
Thanks, Tim, for joining in the fun. I’m a little behind on comments around the ‘sphere today, sorry for my delay. Was a bit shocked at the response to this love fest. I’m loving it!
Thank you, brother.

5 Nadia Ballas-Ruta September 2, 2010 at 10:43 am

Hi Tim,

I love that line from Frank Zappa…there is a whole lot of truth to it.

Although I love love, I have never been a fan of love songs. I don’t love slow music but you are right…there are some powerful and magical lines in love songs.

I think we all want someone to love us and we all want someone to love. Fear just gets in the way because we want love to be problem free but the beauty of love lies in the “problems”…that is what makes it fun.

Two people come together to help each other grow and sometimes you have to piss each other off in order to do that and sometimes you don’t. It is a very worthwhile adventure!

6 Tim September 2, 2010 at 11:03 am

Hi Belinda: Thanks for stopping by and sharing…it is good to learn your husband writes you love songs – awesome! Yeah, it is pretty amazing how these songs we grew up listening to have such an influence on us. The song from Grease was big for me because it came from such a popular movie at the time – and the first movie I saw more than once.

Hi Exception: Wow, well put. Your comment reminds me how important it is to talk to our kids and let our lives be the most influential example of love so that they can get a better understanding of love than from music alone. I’m not a parent, but I strongly believe that, too.

Hi Keith: Thanks for the good words. I am amazed how much I learned about life from rock and roll…and not just about love. Thanks for stopping by!

Hi Lori: I’m glad I could bring a few laughs just by mere mention of the Debbie Boone song. It has to be one of the more sappy love songs I can remember – but I know I’ve forgotten many 😉 Yeah, music has had an amazing impact on me – I wish I could play guitar better, though. But I’ve always had a kind of cynical view on love songs…just like I’ve always had a cynical view of TV commercials. Oops, I probably shouldn’t have admitted that having worked in advertising. Anyhow, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this very interesting, complex topic and for being such a great example of love. Your post from yesterday rocked!

7 Tim September 3, 2010 at 11:39 am

Hi Nadia: Yep, I agree with you about love songs…that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not a romantic at heart. But I guess I’ve had a lifetime of experience that makes me a little cynical. I love your line about love and pissing each other off. I suppose if you can piss each other off on a regular basis and still love each other, well that’s magic and – as you said – adventure. Thanks for sharing here and have a great weekend!

8 Ryhen Satch September 7, 2010 at 2:32 am

Gee… I think I have not heard any of the songs you mentioned here, but I have read The Real Frank Zappa Book when I was in college. It’s a very funny book with a pretty weird writing style. Anyway, love songs and psychological problems… hmm. Yeah, I guess they blend together quite well. In my case, I listen to a lot of heavy metal to neutralize the effect. It makes me feel hatred – my only antidote to love. lol

9 Tim September 8, 2010 at 7:21 am

Hi Ryhen: Yeah, Zappa was a weird guy with some interesting things to say and that was a crazy book – good to run into someone who’s also read it. Ah, heavy metal…I grew up listening to a lot of it and still listen to get my guitar fix. And while heavy metal is a good neutralizer to the sappy love song, there were a lot of hard rock bands that played their share of sappy ballads, too. Sorry about that reminder 😉

Comments on this entry are closed.