Happy Valentine’s Day! The holiday is more different this year – in 2021 – than ever before.
This year my Valentine’s music pick is a song that has gripped me my entire life. Although I was literally just weeks old when this song was first released, it holds a deep resonance in me. Although my parents weren’t the kind of folk who played pop songs by the likes of Dionne Warwick on a record player, her music (and anything by Burt Bacharach) is very familiar to me. I suspect, as a child of the 1960s suburbs who spent a fair bit of time being a passenger in a Ford Galaxy 500, I heard it on the car radio.
This earliest song of my childhood ties the powerful emotion of love to the rootedness of home. With its air of melancholy and the intensity of its desperate brokenness, the melody and lyrics shaped my belief that cohabitation is the ultimate representation of love. To commit to a place together represents a commitment to bond, nurture, and nest. Creating a home with your partner in life represents unconditional love. As the lyrics poetically state a house only becomes a home when there is love in it.
This, incidentally, is the third song over the 9 years I’ve crafted my annual Valentine’s post that features Dionne Warwick.
A House Is Not A Home
“A House Is Not a Home” is particularly unique and apart from the past songs I’ve highlighted because it was originally written – by Burt Bacharach and Hal David – for a 1964 film by the same name. While the version that you hear in the movie’s soundtrack is sung by Brook Benton, there was a second version of the song recorded by Dionne Warwick that was released simultaneously.
It’s ironic, given how popular the ballad is now, that the first recordings were only modestly successful. In fact, Dionne’s version only reached #71 on the pop charts in the US, while Brook’s topped out at #75 on the Billboard Hot 100. Many have speculated that having two versions fighting for air time was a big marketing mistake, particularly because Dionne’s version cracked the Top 40 in Canada in 1965, where Brook received significantly less attention. (Wikipedia)
Here is the original version by Dionne that I knew well as a child:
Despite not becoming an immediate hit in most major markets, “A House Is Not A Home” has been recorded many times in the decades since, most notable (and successfully) by Luther Vandross in 1981. Now, the ballad originally penned nearly 60 years ago has become immortalized as a classic.
Lonely Lyrics Strike A Chord
In the blog entitled, ‘Four Versions Of A House Is Not A Home‘ posted by Tim Carmody on Oct 25, 2017, he writes:
Dionne’s performance is all about funneling emotion through control. It’s like shooting an explosive bullet through a rifled barrel, for maximum velocity, accuracy, and impact.
Almost all of Hal David’s lyrics are all about loss and unfulfilled dreams, but he/they always find an objective correlative that roots those feelings in specific places, scenes, and experiences. It’s a phenomenology of loss — and “A House Is Not A Home” is maybe the purest example of this:
“A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sittin’ there
But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight
A room is still a room, even when there’s nothin’ there but gloom
But a room is not a house and a house is not a home
When the two of us are far apart
And one of us has a broken heart”
I was a huge American Idol Fan in the early days. I love reality competition shows only when the search is for genuine talent, whether it’s Top Chef, Interior Design, or music. So on the first season of American Idol, during the final four contestants, I got absolute chills watching Tamyra Gray sing her rendition, which swept me back to my childhood roots with its melancholy. That she would get eliminated the next night, demonstrated how much the voting outcome was representative of popularity based on geographic representation.
I also love the version by Jermain Jackman recorded in 2013 on The Voice UK – BBC (he would win the competition in its third season at the time) for his deep baritone smoothness and classical training and perfectly Broadway (though at the time he’s an 18-year-old with braces and the bloom of youth).
Thank you for reading! Like me, why not video chat your loved ones today and let them know…
“A room is not a house and a house is not a home… When the two of us are far apart!”
May LOVE – in all its forms – be with you – today and always!
If you’re curious to hear my personal picks for stellar love themes, here are my past V-Day posts:
– It’s important to celebrate the emotional highs of love as well as its bitter truths. This is exactly what Gordon Lightfoot did crafting his hit If You Could Read My Mind.
– An ode to the tropes of woodland creatures in Walt Disney & the secret shame of eating disorders, rooted in Karen Carpenter’s 1970 hit Close To You.
– A joyful song of devotion, Say A Little Prayer performed by Dionne Warwick, was what I was feeling in 2018!
– Representing all the shades of love and lust – with plenty of camp – with my 2017 pick of Madonna’s 1989 track “Express Yourself”
– My 2016 naughty seductive indulgence with Madonna’s controversial 1990 video ‘Justify My Love’
– A 2015 celebration of love and real estate with the B52’s Love Shack (including a cameo by RuPaul)
– A 2014 homage to The Captain and Tenille (Steve’s first 45 record) in Hello Cupid
– The classic rock anthem “Addicted To Love” in our 2013 Happy Valentine’s post
– A hysterically funny 2012 Thumpty-Thump “Love Is In The Air” post (especially for those of you who love camp)
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