“Don’t judge the past by the present.” – The wisest thing my mother ever said.
Today there’s a lot of judging about the past in the media. As I mentioned in my previous post Writing for Today’s Reader, there is also a lot of rewriting of history in today’s movies, TV shows, and plays.
The thing is, if you haven’t lived it, you might not know the true meaning of it. So often I see this on “The Voice.” The younger singers, even if they’re not that young, weren’t around when the song was first around and so they don’t get the nuances or know how to fully emote. Their technical skills are incredible. But the song falls flat because they don’t know how to convey the emotional meaning of the song.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. And one of the books is Dawn Eden’s The Thrill of the Chaste. We’re both Catholic converts and I’ve enjoyed two of her other books (My Peace I Give You and Remembering God’s Mercy). In “Chaste,” she mentions the song “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles. She says this:
“She’s not looking for affirmation so much as absolution. All her man has to do is say he loves her–then a night of sin is transformed into a thing of beauty.”
“If the Shirelles tune were to be written today, the singer would likely have to lower the bar down to “Will You Respect Me Tomorrow?”–if even that.
Dawn is a talented writer but how did she miss the meaning? Perhaps because she wasn’t around when the song was first around. All she knew were the facts of who wrote it, who recorded it, when it was released, etc. But having lived through that time, even though I was just a kid, I knew–we all knew--that the real meaning behind the question of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” was really “Will You Respect Me Tomorrow?”
I don’t know how old “John from Nashville” on Songfacts is, but he got it right when he said, “This song is a clever way of saying ‘Will you respect me in the morning if I go home with you tonight?’ ”
My advice to writers? Talk to people who actually lived it, if at all possible. Instead of quoting tweets, for example, dig deeper to find the real meaning and the work will stand out.