Tonight I read through the 25th anniversary piece of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” that Stereogum put out last week and I have to give it up for such a great, in-depth piece. It goes through everything — from the inspiration of its songwriters, to how it landed into the hands of the inimitable Bonnie Raitt, to how its legacy has lived on today in numerous covers and iterations. It’s one of the most beautiful songs that late 20th-century pop had to give, and I remember loving it as a girl, crying to it as a teen, and relating to it as a young woman, like so, so, so many others out there (it’s one of Adele’s favorites, too!) — so crazy to think all these years I thought I knew who wrote it, having no idea there was a songwriting duo behind the demo given to Bonnie.
What’s especially cool about this to me is the very concept of doing an anniversary piece for a song — mainstream music writing is largely focused on what’s hot, what is trendy, but there is this growing appetite for revisiting older music and doing anniversary tours and re-issues and all that jazz, and stories like this show that music writers are paying attention, and finding new ways to tap into it. Reading about how Bruce Hornsby didn’t listen to the demo and tried to make it his own, how they at first tried to clutter it up with other sounds…it’s all a part of a story of how a meaningful song got made, one that listeners across generations have now embraced.
With an infinite buffet of options over what to read on the internet, it’s tough to get readers attention. But I think if you invest in pieces like this, you’re going to raise the bar by putting out quality works that are interesting and indulge in the creative process. It is one thing to write about how something sounds, it is another entirely to write about how it was made, and how that plays into what it sounds, and if we as listeners/musicians/artist advocates are going to make sure that musicianship remains respected in an age when some bro-dudes with a looper and Pro Tools can make the song of the summer, it’s going to take a semblance of education into what goes into making music. That being said, you’re not going make everyone read a piece this long, and you’re not going to get people to care about artists they aren’t invested in. But if you keep plucking on those heart strings of what audiences love, and give them something extra such as the story behind it, you might be creating audiences that have an even deeper connection to the songs they’re connected to.
Turn down the lights
Turn down the bed
Turn down these voices inside my head
Lay down with me
Tell me no lies
Just hold me close, don’t patronize
Don’t patronize me
‘Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power
But you won’t, no you won’t
‘Cause I can’t make you love me, if you don’t
~I Can’t Make You Love Me
Bonnie Raitt, Luck of the Draw