I am more sympathetic to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and his lover, Argentine businesswoman María Belén Chapur, than is apparently allowed by the judgemental fulminators of either the left or the right. To the former, Sanford is a laughable hypocrite; to the latter, a repugnant sinner. To both, Chapur is a “slut” and a “homewrecker.” To me, they’re just human beings, skewered by love. No blame, no balm.
At some point I plan to inscribe a long and no doubt musty essay about the recent confluence in the news of Sanford, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson, all of whom were occupied by loves unconfined by the rigid de rigueur American cage of one man one woman, happy together happy forever, till death do us part.
But that’s a lot of work, and I’m lazy. So instead I’ll play some music, here on this Friday, the day traditionally ruled by Venus, she who oversees love, in all its many variations.
The dreamiest, most otherworldly love song I’ve ever heard is the Flamingos’ 1959 version of “I Only Have Eyes For You.” A perfect blend of material and production. Listening to this thing, you completely believe that the singer is so transported by love that he truly doesn’t know whether it’s cloudy or bright, whether the moon or stars are in the sky, whether he and his lover are in a garden or on a crowded avenue, whether he’s alone with his beloved or whether millions of people are passing by. Because “I only have eyes for you.” Literally. And the song can you take you there, too.
Mark Sanford, poor fellow, has been in precisely that place, as he’s found himself wholly unable to stop talking about his love affair. It’s like it doesn’t even really register with the guy that anyone else is out there. He sees only her.
you are here
so am I
maybe millions of people go by
but they all disappear from view
and I only have eyes for you
It’s a magic place, that one. But one where you can easily be run over by a bus.
I retain nostalgic affection for Bonnie Raitt’s “Something To Talk About,” as it was released as I was entering into a workplace affair with a married woman. She, one afternoon, as we were driving to lunch, drew my attention to the song, thereby signaling that she was feeling what I was feeling. She was then learning, as Sanford learned, that it is indeed possible to love more than one person at the same time.
The king and queen of adultery songs is “The Dark End Of The Street,” which, legend has it, was written by Muscle Shoals tunesmiths Chips Moman and Dan Penn during a 30-minute pause in a card game at a 1966 DJ convention in Memphis. According to Penn, the pair “were always wanting to come up with the best cheatin’ song, ever,” and, that day, it just . . . came.
The original version, performed by James Carr, is excellent, but tops to me is the nearly eight-minute workout by Terry King and Bobby Evans on their terrific Live And Let Live. The song is all about tension, which the pair maintains throughout, until at the end, where the number generally fades out, King and Evans burst into a bout of testifying, ending with an explicit, soulful statement that they intend to keep on keeping time, “sin,” “wrong,” or no. Good on them. Just like Ms. Chapur, in her email to her lover: “I don’t want to put the genie back in the bottle because I truly believe in freedom.”
Unfortunately, there ain’t no video of King and Evans’ “Dark End” on the tubes. I offer instead this version by Cat Power, which is sorta spooky. Best to not look, but just listen.
This last song speaks for itself. And for an awful lot of people. Sanford, Chapur; me, down through the ages; you, probably at least once or twice. The video is no doubt Wrong. The song, like love, is not.