Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Chi-Lites - "Have You Seen Her" (1971)

One of the granddaddies of the "talking soul songs of the 70's," a whole subgenre which I plan on revisiting periodically. It's not enough to have a great song, because sometimes you just have to talk, you know, stream of consciousness, let the audience in on what you are thinking?

About half of this classic is sheer talking, the sad sack sitting by himself knowing he screwed it up bigtime with his girlfriend, that he really let a good one get away.

"Have You Seen Her" hits big right from the beginning, a slow ballad with a fuzz guitar lead and all kinds of background vocals building up ("Ah-ah-ah-ah-ahhhh!") before the talking starts.

If you're going to talk along with one of these records, you have to get the cadences right with every phrase. Remember, the key is doing the talking part sort of nonchalantly, you're not really showing how broken up you are.

One month ago today,
I was happy as a lark,
But now I go for walks,
To the movies... (beat) maybe to the park.

I have a seat on the same old bench,
To watch the children play (huh),
You know, tomorrow is their future,
But to me, just another day (sigh).

They all gather around me,
They seem to know my name (surprised tone),
We laugh, tell a few jokes (casual),
But it still doesn't ease my pain.

I know I can't hide from a memory
'Though day after day I've tried
I keep sayin' (and say it like you're talking to somebody) "She'll be back,"
But today again I've lied.

Of course, the questions I always had were, "Why was it 'One month ago today?' What was that day? Why wasn't it two weeks, or three? If the song came out three months later than it was recorded, wouldn't that make it 'Three months ago today?'"

Thank God the singing parts are so good, all doo-wop-type falsettos, led by Chi-Lites leader and songwriter Eugene Record (yep, that's his name). Of course, Record goes back to the spoken part towards the end, delivering the emotional egotistical punchline:

As another day comes to an end,
I'm lookin' for a letter... (beat) or somethin',
Anything that she would send.
With all the people I know,
I'm still a lonely man,
You know, it's funny,
I thought I had her in the palm of my hand.

The video below is a wonderful montage of the Chi-Lites' career featuring "Have You Seen Her."

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