“Why?” I ask, more pleadingly than I intend.
“Because he is so whiny, and he has never done anything better since his days in ‘Traffic,’ ‘Spencer Davis’ & ‘Blind Faith,’” he snorts.
My guest has no clue.
“Can I cope with today? My love is leavin’ me.”
It’s 1986, and I am in my room in my West Hollywood apartment, getting ready for work. It is still dark outside. I am on the cusp of a painful break-up. The song “My Love is Leavin’” comes on the radio. The gentle percussion in the intro draws me in, and then comes the vocal. His voice is melancholy. It resonates. I do my best to fight back the tears, and manage to succeed — this time.
Many of us in our 30’s and up, look back on any love-related sorrows of our youth with a certain dismissiveness; suffering builds character, after all. Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Essential pain eventually leads to earned rewards. But such optimism can seem so fruitless when you’re shrouded in grief; grief that stems from rejection, infidelity and feelings of worthlessness.
“Shadows in purple thrill me. I cry myself awake each night…”
Heart so grounded; ground into the soil. Heart so trampled upon. Heart still so new and young. Heart so vulnerable. Who, at such a young age, has had the experience of true heartbreak; not of the kind where death is concerned, but of the kind where someone you are truly wrapped up in just doesn’t want you anymore? That is a heartbreak like no other.
“I can’t believe that it’s true. Here am I, where are you, my love?”
I buy the album shortly after. I check out the cover. So sexy and lanky, this Steve Winwood. He wears suspenders, and there is a willowy brunette woman with him in some of the pictures. How could anyone want to leave such an attractive, soulful and talented man?,” was my initial thought. Then again, let’s talk to the brunette; perhaps she has a story of her own.
He sings to her, “Breathing your perfume chills me. Dreams never lie.”
It is 2014 now. I slip “Back in the High Life” into my CD player in my kitchen — my grown-up kitchen in my grown-up house. I hit Track 8, “My Love is Leavin’.” I twirl and sway to it; I do a joyful arabesque. I am 53 now, married for over 25 years to a man that is familiar with Steve Winwood and all the bands that he has been in, and he appreciates it all.
The song still resonates. “Shadows in purple thrill me….” But I no longer cry myself awake each night. I feel a need to comfort those who do, to let them know that things do get better, that their grief is only temporary, and that someday love will find them again — and stay.
“Yeah, that’s what you heard. Oh, I’m free as a bird….”