Friday, May 13, 2005

hymns, love, nick cave, van, god

In the comments on the post below this one , about Van Morrison books, boynton, mentions that, along with many others, Martin Buzacott, co-author of the new book, Speaking In Tongues, dismisses Have I Told You Lately That I love You as "soppy" and not a great song.

I disagree and have always primarily seen it as a hymn. I mentioned that Nick Cave agreed with me and I finally found the quote.
[This does however bring up another issue. That is how did Rod Stewart descend from being a rock interpreter par excellence to being the sad old schlock hack he is today. It's Stewart's version of HITYLTILY that cannot raise above terrestial lerve sop and colours listeners views of the song]

Extract from Salon:
Over the last few years, Cave has written a number of love songs in which it is ambiguous whether the figure being addressed is a woman, or God, where there appears to be a deliberate conflation of earthly and divine love. On "No More Shall We Part," the song "Love Letter," among the most memorable he has written, seems like a classic love song until near the end, when he sings:

Rain your kisses down upon me
Rain your kisses down in storms
And for all who'll come before me
In your slowly fading forms.

"Breathless," from "The Lyre of Orpheus," is ambiguous throughout:

The red-breasted robin beats his wings
His throat it trembles when his sings
For he is helpless before you
Still your hands, And still your heart
For still your face comes shining through
And all the morning glows anew
Still your mind, Still your soul
For still the fire of love is true
And I am breathless without you.

These songs remind me most of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson, in which religious ecstasy sometimes sounds decidedly romantic in nature.
Cave agreed with me that there was a link to those poets, and pointed out that Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately" does something similar. He also told me that there's never any ambiguity in his mind about who is being addressed in his songs -- but declined to be any more specific than that.

End Salon extract.

I rest my case.