31 songs / music

31 songs: Close to You

Some songwriters have the ability of making themselves immediately recognizable by their listeners. Burt Bacharach is number one in the list.

When I was a child and occasionally heard a song by Bacharach-David played on the radio or sung on tv, I was literally ravished by those harmonies which had the power to make me feel at home, while taking me somewhere else at the same time (we could call it “the power of seventh augmented chords”!).

For this reason (and many other ones as well), when I moved back to my hometown and restarted playing music with my old friends, the first song I asked them to do was “Close to You”, by Bacharach and David.

Of that particular song, I had in mind the oceanic version recorded by Isaac Hayes in the early 1970s. The Black Moses, as he was called by his fans, used to stretch songs beyond any limit, making them sound like psychedelic soul symphonies. In such circumstances, the song lyrics seem to reveal their deepest meaning. So here we are: “Close to You” is not just a simple love song, it is a song about mad love (Amour Fou, to call it the French way), i.e. that particular state of mind in which the lover has a one-way relationship with the object of his/her desires and imagines things which are true only in his/her fantasy.

The Amour Fou syndrome was officially diagnosed for the first time in the 1930s, when a French woman fell so deeply in love with King George of England, that she used to spend all of her time outside Buckingham Palace. After a while, she got convinced that the way the windows of Buckingham Palace were opened and closed everyday followed a pattern, a sort of secret language through which the King tried to communicate with her (The Secret Language of Windows… beautiful title for a novel).

So this is what the song is really about. Listening to it (or playing it as I did for some time with my middle-aged friends) is like crossing that grey area where love and madness get mixed. In the poet’s words:

Why do stars fall down from the sky

every time you walk by?

Just like me

They long to be

Close to you…


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