03 November 2009
Is That All There Is?
Sometimes a song comes along that just sounds so peculiar and communicates so clearly the things I'm trying to figure out in my head. And in the past two or three weeks it's been this Lieber & Stoller song. I can't help thinking about it, the lyrics, the melody, the structure of the song, the two different versions I've heard.

When I first heard it, via the Chaka Khan version from her Classikhan album, I thought to myself "What a strange little song..." The verses are spoken, narrating three different episodes - a house burning down, a trip to the circus, a failed love affair - all underpinned by the narrator's rather disappointed epiphany "Is there all there is?" and goes on to add "Well, if that's all there is, then let's keep dancing" and "break[ing] out the booze". I'm not sure if it's a defeatist statement... or maybe just realistic... or perhaps even taking a zen approach to things. Especially since the last verse has the narrator saying that she'll never commit suicide, because she suspects that death will be yet another disappointment... LOL... well, that's one way to look at death. I second...


Anyway, I was thinking about why this song was affecting me so. I guess the spoken parts took me aback. There are not that many songs written like this. And also the approach to the song... it made me think of the subtlety of Peggy Lee's version, which I like the best of the ones I've heard so far. It has to be performed with a certain nonchalance... anticipation that turns into disappointment... that turns into bittersweet wistfulness... like some New Orleans funeral march. I love how a song can be like this... it gets me into thinking if somehow my songwriting is lacking something. Well, if I'm already thinking it, then maybe it is lacking... and then it got me into thinking if my life is lacking something... well, of course, it is... like my good friend Amsalan would say, "It's all about the manifestation of your thoughts". If you're already thinking about it, then it's probably there.

Well, my thoughts are saying "Is That All There Is?" right now... and I wonder if I'm getting bored, or dealing with certain disappointments that haven't yielded their lessons... and I wonder if I need to really step back and take another look at my life and my music... and... and... ask myself "Is that all there is?"

Or maybe it's just because it's a nice song... I must admit I do like the banjo and tuba combo. :-)

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