First of all, R.I.P. to the NO-TO-RI-O, US, you were the Best. Christopher Wallace, May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997.
Ok, that being said, let’s move on to this week’s topic. Emo Music seems to be a recent affliction, a plague that is being suffered only by today’s younger generations. But like most music, Emo existed in a purer, better form long ago when it existed under another name; Soul music. Sad love songs have been around forever, but I believe that the particular sort of woe-is-me genre of sad love song that typifies Yes, I’m not talking about punk music where Emo is generally thought to come from, the origin of super-sad love songs comes from the Soul music of the 60’s and 70’s. If you don’t believe me, I have some examples for you.
Let’s start with "Sideshow" by Blue magic, 1974.
"Let the sideshow begin (Hurry, hurry)
Hurry, hurry, step right on in
Can't afford to pass it by
Guaranteed to make you cry
See the man who's been cryin' for a million years, so many tears
(So many tears)
See the girl who's collected broken hearts for souvenirs
It's more exciting than a one man band
The saddest little show in all the land"
That’s just a small sample. If you listen to the whole song, you had better be in a pretty good mood or it will really get to you. This song is just sad for no damn good reason. It is especially horrific if you visualize a circus where people go specifically to see people who are horribly and irrevocably depressed and/or get off on the sadness of others. It would be like having tours of Psych Wards. Even I think that’s sick, and as you all know, I’m an immoral savage. Next up we have "Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles from 1967:
"Now if there's a smile on my face
It's only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that's quite a different subject
But don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Cos really I'm sad, Oh I'm sadder than sad
Well I'm hurt and I want you so bad
Like a clown I appear to be glad ooh yeah"
This one I’m sure we can all relate to, and it was written back in the 60’s. This is also what I consider to be one of the happiest sad songs ever. Seriously, if you haven’t heard this song, #1 shame on you and #2 try and sit still while listening. It has an incredibly upbeat and danceable rhythm to it. Just like the song, the happy music masks the sad content of the lyrics. The song has the added bonus of self-flagellation by referring to the singer as a "clown" for letting the woman go, and for playing the part of a happy guy while he’s a mental wreck inside. There is so much subtext to this song, it really is the ground floor of Emo. We like to think that everything great was made in the last 3 years, but it turns out that this just isn’t true. Let’s go to another heart breaker, "Cause I love You" by Lenny Williams, from 1975. The setup is pretty simple; man loses woman, who, apparently, he loves.
"And finally I went to bed, but I found myself waking up a few hours later
And the tears were running down my face
And my friend told me, he said, Lenny,
You just oughta forget about her
But I told my friend, I said, You know
Maybe you’ve never been in love like I’ve been in love
And maybe you’ve never felt the things that I’ve felt
But this is what I told my friend
I said, You know, sometimes you get lonely
You get lonely, you get lonely
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
And I cry, I cry"
Not only are the words to this song powerful, and there’s a heart rending spoken part, part of which is quoted above, but the real emphasis is from the way Lenny sings it. You don’t feel like he’s singing a song, you feel like you’re watching a play, you feel like he’s on his knees in the rain and the woman he loves is on her porch in front of him shaking her head no. He is literally pouring his heart into the microphone and it was recorded. I personally doubt Williams sung this song more than once, because he lost party of his soul when he sang it the first time. I really think he put more into this song than he meant to. There’s a rare film of Lenny Williams attempting to sing this song, but only being able to croak out vague resemblance of the original version. I dare you to find a Deathcab for Cutie or Yellowcard song that elicits this kind of passion. You just can’t.
If you want more examples, email me. I can keep them coming The point is anything you like is probably stolen. And if you really like it, it was probably stolen from a Black person ;)