Monday, September 10, 2007

You’re oh, so gone and I’m oh, so sad

Recently, I tuned into This American Life which aired an episode on the subject of heartbreak. The start of the program is a short segment with Ira Glass interviewing Lauren Waterman who had her heart broken just two months prior. Her shaky voice and complete confusion as to what had happened to their relationship was pretty moving.

The other segment that I found quite touching was by This American Life alumnus Starlee Kine. She was also nursing the wounds of a recent break-up and struggling with the “why” and “how” of it all. Despite missing warning signs early on, Ms. Kine states “It is hands down the corniest relationship I’ve ever been in and, by corny, I mean the greatest.” She was (and perhaps is still) in the complete “wallow” stage and listening to sad love songs that make you feel “less alone with your crazy thoughts” as they “understand you” [she references the Magnetic Fields song “I Don’t Want to Get Over You” and Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” as especially emblematic of her feelings].

So Ms. Kine decides, although not having any musical or singing ability, that she was going to write a break-up song. She wanted to take “wallowing to the next level” and “to be thing creating the feeling [she] was feeling”. She decides to enlist the help of Phil Collins, the writer of one of the most popular songs of love loss -- “Against All Odds.” The funny thing is, one of the things she shared with her ex-boyfriend was the love of music and she reminisces about the times her boyfriend adorably lip-syncs to Phil Collins. She finds some humor and possibly solace in the fact that it used to be her and her boyfriend talking about Phil Collins but now it was she and Phil Collins talking about her boyfriend.

After sage advice from Phil Collins, Ms. Kine sets out to write lyrics and finds herself writing down dozens – most of which she believed fell flat on the page. In order to select the right set of lyrics she enlists the help of two musicians, Joe McGinty and Julia Greenberg. They decide on the lyrics Ms. Kine wrote called “The Three of Us” and, while less intense than a torch song, the melody, instrumentation and delivery of the lyrics are clever and sweet. Take a listen here:

[note: For the artisans and the technically-able out there, check out This American Life’s website as they have a “Break-Up Song Contest” for listeners to re-mix the Kine-McGinty-Greenberg song. They have posted the instrumentation, tempo, etc. so that you can have their tools at your service. The contest ends September 30, 2007.]

So everyone, including Phil Collins, was pleased with the outcome of Ms. Kine’s song especially the classic-worthy line “It doesn’t do me any good, in fact it does me bad, cuz your oh, so gone and I’m oh, so sad.” What does Starlee Kine want to get out of writing this song? She says on some level it was done as something to accelerate healing but really she wants her ex-boyfriend to hear it and for him to understand her pain. The thing is, there is probably nothing harder in a break-up situation than being the person left behind whilst the other person walks away with the intention of being with someone else. Feelings of inadequacy, distrust, and blame start to wash over and consume you. The pain is indescribable and you want these feelings to disappear as soon as possible.

If you search the Internet, you can find dozens of books and articles that were written to help you through this troubling time -- the break-up. Interestingly, I found that a lot of the advice mirrors advice given for someone grieving the death of a loved one. And that is exactly what this is – mourning the loss of a relationship. Most advise to let enough time pass before contact with the person so that you are not continually re-inflicting the emotional wounds.

I decided to seek advice of how to get over a break-up with some folks who seem to have, at least lyrically, a grasp on the issue. I contacted Jude because of the heart-breaking lyrics in his song “I Do" and because he was a philosophy major in college. Jude sweetly suggests the following:

Some clichés are true. Time heals.

A lot of our life is lived in aspiration to images we have of ourselves, the perfect, ideal life we hope for and then come to expect. The key to happiness, I've heard, is to find new images to hold onto when the old ones become impossible. But that's advice for old people. Maybe you feel old, having lost a love. Don't. In a way, you get to be new again...soon, anyway. One thing people try to keep us from doing is mourning loss. Whether it's love, a career,'s important to give the thing the respect it deserves. This doesn't mean making the loss a permanent major part of your personality/conversation, but... what I'm trying to say is that people will tell you to move on. And you will. But give yourself time to be fragile, time to recover, time to heal well. It's ok to hurt. It's all right to need time, to eat lots of ice cream, to want to escape for a bit. Then, when you've properly mourned, you can put things where they belong and move on. But don't skip the truth.

Another person I reached out to was the gentle and kind Andrew Morgan. In responding to my question as to whether there was a quick cure for a broken heart, Andrew responded:

Of course, there's no cure for that, but I do recommend walks, water, vitamins, music, and generally taking it easy and giving yourself lots of time to recover.

And Jim Putnam of the Radar Bros. suggested lots of music listening as therapy and specifically Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue citing “Moonshine” as a “killer” in terms of torch songs. Here is a sampling of those lyrics:

It was you who said there won't be tomorrow
You said you love me now in another way
Oh in another way
Gone gone away gone gone away (x 4)

There are tons of songs that make me tearful like Jeff Buckley’s “Opened Once,” James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something” or Chad Vangaalen’s “I Miss You Like I Miss You.” Because this is an “mp3 blog” and not an agony column, I’m throwing in some mp3s of songs that are beautiful and moving and fit the theme.

I lost you but I found country music
I found country music to hold me and soothe me
The way you used to do
And I miss you but luckily there’s music
Luckily there’s music, to get me through
And I think of you every day of my life
And every day I miss you, and wonder and guess
What you are listening to
And every day I miss you, and wonder and guess
What you are listening to
What you are listening to
What you are listening to


Listen to the This American Life Break-Up Episode

Starlee Kine

Joe McGinty

Julia Greenberg


Andrew Morgan

Radar Bros.

Wikipedia entry on Torch Songs


Anonymous said...


With THOSE eyes and THAT dimpled smile you will not be single for long!!! Great post.


Anonymous said...

I was searching for more info on Starlee Kline's great "This American Life" piece and came across this post. I suffered a breakup in August too. Must have been breakup season. Great post. Thanks for that.

Rachel said...

Excellent post, excellent songs. Warmed me up. :) I'm not even going through a breakup now, but that Country Music song got me pretty misty.

Anonymous said...

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