Recently, a dear young friend and I talked about the singer and songwriter, Peggy Lee. He wasn’t familiar with her extensive song book, which I practically knew by heart. LIsten to this, and this and this, I enthusiastically suggested.
Following our conversation, I decided to go back and listen to a few of her hits myself. I turned to Youtube. Compared to the over wrought hoop-la of music videos today, recordings of those mid 20th century decades were straight forward affairs. Singer and musician, and they better be good. Lyrics could always be understood. (I’ll never understand why that went out of fashion.)
I listened to Lee sing, in a faux Spanish accent, the now, politically incorrect Mañana, recorded in the 1940’s I followed it with the light-hearted simplicity of It’s a Good Day which I used to sing to myself on a good day. However, I found Lee at her most compelling and unsettling, in her 1968 hit, Is That All There Is?
That song was a big hit when I was in my mid-20’s. My pregnant ands barefoot years. The ballad was poignant.
I’d been married a few years only to discover that marriage wasn’t the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as good 1950’s girls were led to believe.The fun and freedom of my college years seemed very far away. The promises of a new era seemed hollow. I had one small child, then I’d lost an infant to SIDS (sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I drifted for months in a bleak sea of sorrow and guilt. Every time Is That All There Is? came on the radio, it felt as if Lee were singing for me. Someone understood.
Now, listening to the lyrics, I relate to the song differently. Naturally, I have acquired a broader perspective. There have been decades of life lived, containing both joy and sorrow. The sorrows leave their scars, but I’ve found it’s best not to linger in the dark places of loss. The bigger lesson I’ve learned, is that nothing lasts forever, neither the good nor the bad. It’s all ephemeral. I’ve come to expect it and understand it and occasionally welcome it.
“Let’s break out the booze and have a ball….”