I've been thinking about what this past summer's song was because the tail end of my summer was spent in rehab, where there is virtually no music at all. I was not allowed any music player - no iPod, no phone, and no access to television (except for a single monitor that played Hallmark Hall of Fame's My Name is Bill W. in an endless loop. Someone told me that they used to alternate it with another movie but that another someone stole the other movie, which upon investigation turned out to be....Robert Altman's Popeye, the very idea of which is so deliciously strange that I kept meaning to look into it).
Anyway, music was hard to come by. There was a morning meditation that - depending on who was running the show that day - would sometimes be accompanied by music, but it was almost always some sort of whale-bleating twiddly-twee-ing to make my mind go elsewhere from the place I was. Frankly, it made me want to go to a gun shop. There was one weekend counselor who would play interesting things during meditation, but even that was only for three minutes or so. Other than that, no music.
A few times a week, some of the
There was one song, though, back at the ranch, that did turn out to be the official "summer song" of late August...or at least the time that I was there. For some odd reason, one morning the meditation song was Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." It was an unusual selection, what with it having little to do with sounding like the mating call of a lovesick whale, but it actually engendered pre-meditation conversation. We were asked in advance how many times Withers sings the words "I know" in it. Think about the song for a second and you'll remember the part - he repeats " I know, I know, I know...." and let me tell you: he sings it 26 times. 26! That's a lot of "I know"s. But somehow the song stuck in everyone's mind and for the rest of my time out there, I couldn't escape the song. I'd hear it late at night on the way to get my last iced tea of the evening, or someone would whistle it while peeing on the seat in the bathroom or it'd jump from lip to lip in the lunchroom line. One night a couple of people who could really sing dug into it and sang it on the smoking porch so loudly that it echoed down the field and bounced across the bluffs across the river - you could hear it twice if you paid close attention.
I still wasn't sure why that song cropped up in meditation that day, so when I got home I looked it up on unimpeachable Wikipedia, and this is what I found:
Withers was inspired to write this song after watching the 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses. He explained, in reference to the characters played by Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon, "They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It's like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you. It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."
Who knew all that shit was going on in that song? None of that got explained that day, so I wonder if the person who picked it even knew. If not, it's yet another astonishing coincidence. If so, well, maybe they know what they're doing out there. They're sly.