Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

I sat up when I first heard this song on American Idol last Wednesday. It's an oldie, I would learn later.

Contestant Didi Benami's version jolted me -- that a song this good, and popular -- has eluded me through the years. "No matter what the judges say," I thought, "I like this song." Didi, according to the judges, botched it. The audience agreed and she was voted out next day.

The song, written by William Witherspoon, Paul Riser, and lyricist James Dean, was recorded by Jimmy Ruffin and released on Motown Records' Soul label in the summer of 1966. 

The lyrics, carrying a bittersweet tone and theme, are addressed to a love that exists no more. Printed here is Didi's shorter version:

I walk this land with broken dreams,
I have visions of many things;
Love's happiness is just an illusion,
Filled with sadness and confusion. 

What becomes of the broken hearted
Who had love that's now departed?
I know I've got to find
Some kind of peace of mind

I walk in shadows
Searching for light;
Cold and alone,
No comfort in sight;
Hoping and praying for someone to care,
Always moving but going nowhere.
What becomes of the broken hearted
Who had love that's now departed?
I know I've got to find
Some kind of peace of mind.

I'll be searching everywhere
Just to find someone to care.
I'll be looking everyday,
I know I'm gonna find...

What becomes of the broken hearted?
Tell me. Tell me. Oh...
What becomes of the broken hearted?

The word "confusion" in the fourth line and the theme of the song toss my mind further back in time. Here are the last two stanzas of  Dover Beach, written by Matthew Arnold in 1851.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

 Video from YouTube

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