Tony Bennett: An ode to romance
I was fortunate enough last week to see Tony Bennett live and up close at the Denver Botanical Gardens. Not only was he close enough for me to see his wrinkles and hear his actual, rather than ‘mic’d voice, I was close enough to get a sense of that ‘ol’ black magic’ he’s spun for so many years.. namely, romance.
Sure the guy is 86 but that voice, those songs, the fading sunlight.. both my girlfriend and I were in tears as Tony crooned at us from the grand piano. Yes it was beautiful, but the romance of it what had us so moved and so full of … well.. feelings. The songs of lost love, of long time love, of remembrance and yes.. of the good life.
Now I love a 50s or 60s movie, a pencil skirt and a woman who could hold a martini and a cigarette while wearing a girdle and pancake make up (and still look natural).. but I don’t romance the era. I don’t want to be the housewife of the 50’s or the 60’s and no matter how much Mad Men I watch, I wouldn’t trade the freedoms of today for the ‘white picket fence’ certainty of that era. But what I do long for and one of the reasons I still listen to so much jazz, Tony and Frank.. is the romance.
(and no, even though I love them… Wilco, Bon Iver, The National, Iron and Wine, Elliott Smith, Rufus Wainwright, even M Ward… not really romantic.. beautiful stirring music, but not romantic).
How to describe romance? Hey if Shakespeare and Donne couldn’t do it, I think its safe to say its beyond me. But I just know that nothing will move me like ‘Smile’ or ‘I Left my Heart in San Francisco’, and of course, ‘Because of You’. Maybe its the sense of longing, the ‘almost having but not quite getting’ melancholy that I find so poignant. Or the nostalgic sense of hope, despite the gravely voice and so sad words. Even the upbeat songs seem to fill me with the scent of roses and the heady remembrance of starting to fall in love (and boy, that’s looking back a ways). Listening to Tony (and Frank, and Chet Baker and Miles and Coltrane… the list is endless), it stirs something that reminds you of the highs and the lows of life, but harmonizes them into something that brings contentment and a sense of goodwill and love. Maybe its just me, but listening to these guys makes me love.
Love what? Well – life.
But what of romance? While I’m not getting showered with roses or declarations of affection anytime this year.. I tend to think that my life has some pretty romantic moments. Where I’m content beyond words. Without words when I breathe in the scent of cigarettes and soap. Or sad but enjoying the wallow. Nervous with anticipation and a stomach that flips. Or having to pull over my car to listen to that song on my iPhone that contains everything I once felt about someone special.
Yes, I am a bucket of goo under this cold British shellac.
But romance isn’t something most of us feel these days. I don’t know about you, but the manufactured pink of Valentines day doesn’t really count and unless you’re partnered with an English major, I doubt anyone’s received a love letter that moved you to tears lately. In between the email, the dog, the grocery runs and workouts, there’s not a lot of time or space for romance. Because romance just happens….The early morning text, the emailed song to break up a long Wednesday afternoon or just the quiet hug from nowhere. But we’re too busy to notice, too busy to remember or it just doesn’t seem, well, romantic enough for some people. Its just so hard to define what it is or isn’t, or how to ‘be’ it. So most of us just aren’t.
We can’t define it, we can’t explain it, we can’t tell people how to ‘be’ it.. but Tony can stand, at the age of 86 and make us all feel it.
Beats me. No wonder he’s had the good life.