I have all these songs cued up and stuff I wanted to say about The Dazz Band (it’s literally disco jazz! What is not to love?!), but then I listened to this track five times in a row today, and I thought, ‘Belle, old bean,’ I thought to myself, ‘why are you being so aintry with “Love Come Down” and bogarting this when you could be sharing it with everybody at Crooked Timber? Why?’ Readers, there is no good answer to this question, so here is Evelyn Champagne King. The first time I listened to this song about a month ago I thought I had a problem with the tinkling synth descent that opens the song and runs behind “ooh you make my love” in the chorus. Then I listened to it again. Then, I listened to it a few more times. Then I realized I loved those tinkling synth chords.
You might think I could be sharing this with one John Holbo, but there is a huge area of non-overlap in the Venn diagram of our musical tastes, and this falls right out there in the “Patrice Rushen, huh? Meh” area of John’s non-overlapping section. I can’t share it with my children because they don’t super go for this either, although, being young, they have frequently widening tastes. I introduced our older daughter to Sufjan Stevens the other day and she likes him a lot; our younger daughter objected after the first 30 seconds of listening to a purely instrumental section, “this is too sad.” I was like, “there’s a happy part here for a bit! Oh, God, no.” What is unquestionably one of the saddest songs ever recorded comes next. Violet: “is she dying? I told you it was sad! Turn it off!” OK, fine. The one verse in that song that truly pains me is “In the morning in the winter shade/ On the first of March, on the holiday/ I thought I saw you breathing.”
My brother and I were with my grandmother when she died, my father’s mother. He had finally gone upstairs to sleep, at two or three a.m., I convinced him. He had been up for so long, at the hospital, and then fighting to get her back home. My brother and I were just sitting in the room with her, with the TV on, talking, and I was holding her hand, and suddenly we fell silent and my brother said, “look.” It seemed as if she were dead, but the fan in the room was strong enough that her thin cotton nightgown was still fluttering on her chest, tiny sine waves I hoped were breaths. I had ordered ten of those nightgowns custom-sewn for her three years before she died. She only had a few she liked: all cotton, and opened all down the front and closed with snaps. But she had gotten so much thinner they gaped at the neck in too-deep a curve, and she was cold, and got chills that gave her back-spasms. I took one to a dress-maker in Savannah to have it reproduced and she sniffily told me to go to Sears, and I told her I had tried everywhere. I asked how much fabric she would need for each and I went and bought cotton by the yard, white with thin blue stripes, tiny pink polka dots, pale blue squares. And lace. The lady at the dress store didn’t even want to do it, she told me it’d cost more that $100 a gown for the work. I said my grandmother was a proud woman and this was all the clothes she was ever going to have for the rest of her life, and they should be just how she wanted, and they should take the damn money and make them. They weren’t done till after I left town and my dad was mad at me for spending too much money at my grandma’s (N.B. he was, separately, quite right, just not here); I found out later he was appalled by the cost also and had cut back on the nightgowns from ten to eight. I don’t know when I have been so mad in my life. So seeing the cotton tremble I told my brother he was wrong, and we sat in the stillness for a while longer before I really tried to check properly, because I wanted not to know just even for a few seconds more. Now Sufjan Stevens has probed a vein of sadness beneath the sheer pleasure of sharing “Love Comes Down” with all of you, but I invite you to enjoy it in a spirit of good cheer anyway. I think we would all be happy to die at 83, at home in our beds, taking liquid morphine, and with our family around us. Love does not, in fact, conquer all, but surely it snatches a kind of victory from the jaws of inevitable defeat.