"[The] more he absorbed this principle of love, the easier he found it to renounce life, and the more effectively he destroyed the dreadful barrier that the absence of love sets up between life and death." - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Guys, I love Anna Karenina. Like, a lot. And we just finished reading it in class. Which means I have almost no one with whom to keep discussing this book that has seized control of some pretty splendid parts of my brain. It's just tumbling around in my head, themes and concepts and ideas rattling against all the other loose objects I keep chucking into my thought processes, and as it does so all my thoughts grow in size until I can do nothing but think them. What I'm trying to say here is that I really like this book, and there's a strong possibility that I will blog about it at some point. Probably soon. Probably multiple times.
In the meantime, I would like to honor Tolstoy's thoughts on the interconnectedness of life, death, love, and faith with a short list of My Favorite Love Songs that Mention Death in Them. I think I will choose five. Here they are, in no applicable order:
Brett Dennen - When I Go
This is a little more of a Death Song that Mentions Love In It, but it's just so lovely that I can't resist it. Add in the upbeat charm of Dennen's singing voice and his catchy picking skills and you've got yourself one Awesome of a song.
Oh the thought of death has yet to make me afraidDeath Cab for Cutie - I Will Follow You Into the Dark
'cause I will march right off this world into the next like it's a grand parade
but if you feel lonely just like you want to run and hide
then I'll wrap my wings around you and give you strength and I won't leave your side
and I'll watch over you
you know I'd love to get to heaven
you know I'd love to see the view
but first I think I'll stay and watch over you
Come on, you all knew I would choose this one.
Love of mine some day you will dieThe Mountain Goats - Love Love Love
But I'll be close behind
I'll follow you into the dark
If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark
Bonus points to this song for mentioning Crime and Punishment in another verse. I know it's not so much a "Girl, I love you so good" type of a love song, since it's a bit more of a meditation on love as an abstract concept than a declaration of love set to music, but I still think it counts. I mean, just mentioning the word "love" thrice consecutively as often as John Darnielle does here qualifies it as a Love Song.
And way out in Seattle, young Kurt CobainBen Folds - The Luckiest
Snuck into the greenhouse, put a bullet in his brain
Snakes in the grass beneath our feet
Rain in the clouds above
Some moments last forever, and some flare out
with love love love
I still think this might be the world's most romantic song. I really believe that I could fall in love with anyone who both played and sang me this song. It's just that powerful. Perhaps this particular mention of death only deepens its power and impact:
Next door there's an old man who lived to his ninetiesBen Harper - Happy Everafter In Your Eyes
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away
I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way to tell you that I know we belong
That I know
That I am
OK, this barely counts as mentioning death but this song is just so soft and lovely and gently romantic that I really can't stay away from it.
Couldn't leave you to go to heavenDavid Gray - Please Forgive Me
I carry you in my smile
For the first time my true reflection I see
Happy everafter in your eyes
I got half a mind to scream out loudAnd as a matter of fact, yes, I am a little confused about why he thinks dying is the best way to not lose a relationship; then again, maybe I just finished reading a book in which characters repeatedly consider death to be the only way out of their relationships. Whatever his thinking, David Gray's song remains one of those nearly-timeless "slow dance at the prom" songs that will always place warm fuzzies in the pit of my stomach irrespective of whether I believe they should or not. And so I choose to mention it here.
I got half a mind to die
So I won't ever have to lose you girl
Won't ever have to say goodbye
Bonus Song: The Weakerthans - Night Windows
This song is a bonus for two main reasons. First and foremostly, it is one of the more awesome songs circulating in the world today. And secondly, it isn't really clear if the song is actually about death and I'm not quite willing to look it up and see if it is or not. It's also not so overtly about love. Basically, I just like this song, so I'm quoting it. That's about it.
In the stick count for the song with knowing you're gone
Glancing up at where you lived when you lived here
I see you suddenly alive and nearly smiling
Stop and hold my breath and watch the way we used to be
But you're not coming home again, and I won't ever get to say
"Remember how I'm sorry that I miss the way it could be"
"Remember how I'm sorry that I miss the way it could be"
So that's 5 1/2 songs about love and death (I'm still not sure that the Ben Harper song quite counts) plus one bonus because The Weakerthans are cool. Tolstoy would be just so proud. I'm sure that I know many more fantastic love-and-death songs - or at least, I assume I do, since I have a deep and abiding love for songs that mix happiness with melancholy. I'm sure they're lying undiscovered somewhere in the vastness of all that music that lives only on my external harddrive (my regular harddrive having been wiped clean in the wake of the Great Computer Crash of 2009) - you know, all the stuff I'm too lazy to dig out. I mean, there's a lot of Ryan Adams and Bright Eyes to sift through there. But I said five, and I've already given you 5 1/2 plus a bonus, so I guess that's enough for today. If you know think of any good ones, just let me know (leave a comment or something!) and I'll try to add them to my illustrious playlist. In the meantime, please read Anna Karenina, and then contact me so that WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT. Thank you.
Edit: I was going to include a playlist here with all of the songs I mentioned, but too many of them would only play in 30 second incarnations and that annoyed me. And since I've already embedded "When I go" one time in this really really long and rambly blog post, I figured I'd just add "Love Love Love" here - since it is essential listening for all human beings and I'm sure most of you have never heard it - and leave it at that. Still give me suggestions for Love-and-Death songs though, if you have them, because I like those.
Love Love Love - The Mountain Goats