Love Come Down

by Belle Waring on November 21, 2014

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.



A H 11.21.14 at 6:30 am

For impossibly sad songs it’s hard to beat the scud mountain boys.


Emma in Sydney 11.21.14 at 11:20 am

Good on you Belle. That nightgown story is one of the best things I ever read. We didn’t manage to get my Dad home to die, and it is a huge regret. We were with him though, despite the hospital gown and the IV. If I have to fight that fight again, I will fight harder.


William Timberman 11.21.14 at 1:05 pm

Ancient neurons sometimes do weird things. I kept hearing this, from 1983:


Bloix 11.21.14 at 2:21 pm

You could write a book of cotton stories, Belle, and we would all read it and the tears would stream down our faces.


MPAVictoria 11.21.14 at 2:23 pm



Lynne 11.21.14 at 4:27 pm

Dear Belle, I don’t share your taste in music, but your description of your grandmother’s death is very moving. Like so much that is important, grief is in the details. Thank you.


MPAVictoria 11.21.14 at 4:31 pm

If we are posting sad songs this one always gets a tear from me.


dn 11.21.14 at 4:38 pm

Sufjan Stevens knows how to write some real gut-punchers. Although I like the musically-heavier Age of Adz even better than his banjo-and-trumpet period.


Anderson 11.21.14 at 5:43 pm

Belle, I would love to see a book one day collecting your blog posts like this.


Greg 11.21.14 at 6:42 pm

I was introduced to Love Come Down by the legendary Bobby Coulman, Donald Pleasence lookalike and shoo-in for loveliest man in the world award, lately of Soft Rocks record label in Brighton.

We worked together in a wine shop, where we spent all day and night drinking and talking about music while Bobby played late disco, early electro and house to the customers. After locking up we’d often go to his club nights where he would play more of the same. His music made all of us happy.

I haven’t seen him for ten years, but I would still trust Bobby implicitly on anything related to music, and/or southern French reds.

I sometimes miss those days fiercely. ‘Nostalgia’ has never been an adequate word for this mix of happiness and loss.


Philip 11.21.14 at 6:53 pm

Belle, that reminded of my mum getting nightgowns for her mum when she had dementia, the effort to find the right on then having to cut off any parts that would irritate her.

For sad songs I heard today: Here’s the Tender Coming by The Unthanks which is about men being pressed into the British navy.

Also Sad February and Close the Coal House Door.


MPAVictoria 11.21.14 at 7:34 pm

Last post got lost in moderation. So trying again.

Hope it works.


JanieM 11.21.14 at 10:18 pm

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.

Truer words….

Thanks for the story, another in a long line, and I’ll second the suggestion that you collect them in one place.


Matt Hellige 11.21.14 at 11:18 pm

Love Come Down is THE JAM. The idea that people might not know this song is… disturbing. Classic.


ZM 11.22.14 at 6:30 am

I was surprised I know Love Come Down. Perhaps it is in a movie or someone else has covered it, as I haven;t heard of the singer before.

Having the company and presence of you and your brother must have been a great comfort to your grandmother. One of my aunts was visiting with my grandfather when he passed away at home at 89 (my other grandparents died when I was younger, his wife when I was just two) and it seemed less lonesome to me to have loved ones with you when you go.

There was a moving article in the paper today about mother of columnist Martin Flanagan (the journalist brother of Australia novelist Richard who won the Booker prize this year with his novel inspired by his father’s wartime experiences):

“She loved what the Irish call the craic, the excited talk, the laughter, the fun of being together. Her last coherent words, with all of us in the room, were, “Thanks everyone. I’ve had a lovely time”.

I’d only been back from London 36 hours when my sister Mary rang and said, “You’d better come”. The last gathering, the last session, had begun. It lasted three days. On the afternoon of the second day Mum spoke to each of us in turn. Her thinking had been confused in some ways over the past year but now she was as clear as light. She wished us good luck. We were travelling on and she wouldn’t be coming. She said something pertinent to each individual. She wasn’t scared but she said, “I’m going to miss you all”.
Around 11.30pm on the third day, one of my nieces, Jean, said that maybe we should leave Mum and let her rest. And so the last session ended, the voices departed down the corridor. I had volunteered to sleep that night in her room. With the others gone and the room dark, I lay for a while, listening to her every breath. It was like watching an old hand write its last words, the pen scratching on the paper.

I was still jetlagged and I could feel the black ink of tiredness behind my eyes but, even so, I managed to wake every half hour or so. I was conscious of her breathing slowing, then I thought I heard it no more and forced myself to wake. It was 1.04am.

As her kids got older, Mum mellowed more and more. In the end, after multiple strokes and seizures, all that was left of her was love.

If I have one conclusion in the wake of this experience, it’s that we fear death too much in this culture. We hide it away, avoid it. In recent times, men have started to realise witnessing birth can be one of life’s defining experiences. So can witnessing death. ”


JPL 11.23.14 at 5:11 am

“Love come down” was one of our dancing favourites back in that late, degenerating stage of the disco era.

Betty Carter’s “Don’t weep for the lady” is such a sad song, when I play the CD it’s on I sometimes avoid listening to it, even though it’s so beautiful. I think I’ll post the live performance version, because Betty Carter is simply awesome. But check out the studio version too, which is from 1960 or thereabouts.


JPL 11.23.14 at 11:53 am

… the studio version of the Betty Carter song if you prefer it straighter, w/ less improvisation (her earlier style) …

The “tinkling synth descent” on “Love come down” reminded me of another favourite dance tune from the same period, “Wet my whistle” by Midnight Star. (The 3:44 mark was the time to pull styles.)


Barry Freed 11.23.14 at 3:07 pm

That was a powerful piece of writing. Moving and beautiful.


Will 11.23.14 at 6:02 pm

Brilliant song Belle! My 3 yo is capering around the room to it as I write :). And a beautiful story, too.


Belle Waring 11.24.14 at 12:17 am

I LOVE Midnight Star. “Wet My Whistle” is an awesome song, and I agree it’s similar in a way, it even has the a capella section. My favorite is “No Parking on The Dance Floor,” though. Thanks for other cool songs and thoughtful words other kind readers.


mattski 11.24.14 at 2:23 pm

Belle, apologies for this OT, but going back to your MATH post: looks like maybe I was wrong and you are right!


zbs 11.24.14 at 10:12 pm

I have long been obsessed with the dress she wears in this live performance of her first hit, “Shame”:



Paul Davis 11.25.14 at 3:39 am

Sufjan Stevens unexpectedly turned out to be one of the few artists that unite my little family (blended, 3 children), though perhaps that honor should really be attribute to the Illinoise album alone. This is quite an accomplishment given the divergent tastes that have shown up over the years. But oddly I’ve never thought of Casimir Pulaski Day as a sad song, which perhaps means that in contrast to many of the other songs on Illinoise, I’ve just never listened carefully to the lyrics – too much anticipating of the closing section’s arrangement instead.


Jim Buck 11.25.14 at 9:20 am

Can’t go by a man with brain grass, can’t go by his long, long, eye gas.


Alex 11.25.14 at 10:19 am

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