Monday, March 11, 2013

Track of the Week: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, "Into My Arms"

Back in December my friend David died suddenly and unexpectedly.  Every now and again I am reminded of his absence, and the fact that I will have to live the rest of my life without him.  Usually these reminders come via music that we used to listen to together.  The other day I saw an ad on the subway for a piece of public art created by singer Nick Cave for Grand Central Station.  That reminded me that I hadn't listened to old Nick in quite awhile, and as I sat up late at night savoring some of my favorite, almost forgotten songs by an artist I have listened to too little in the last few years.

As much as I loved hearing the music again, my heart was stung with the memory that David had introduced me to Nick Cave in the first place.  (When we roomed together, "Red Right Hand" was a particular favorite of ours.)  Cave fit with his hard-edged tastes in music, which favored the Stooges and Black Sabbath.  However, I know he had a particular love of "Into My Arms," a piano love ballad that's about as far from Gothic horror tales like "The Mercy Seat" as you can get.

It's a song that grabbed me the first time I heard it, with its striking, plain-spoken introduction of "I don't believe in an interventionist God/ But I know darling, that you do."  Most love songs don't begin with a theological proposition, especially a negative one.  In fact, most love songs are sugary frivolities stuffed like an eclair full of creamy cliches.  I so rarely believe them, but I believe every word of this song.

It is a kind of agnostic's prayer from a man who is so grateful to the universe for bringing his beloved to him, and who is so moved that he implores a God he does not believe in to protect his beloved and keep her in his arms.  When David got married, he and his wife wanted this to be the first song they danced to, but the hick DJs responsible for the music at the very rural Iowa location didn't know Nick Cave from Walter Brennan, and picked something much more conventional instead.

At the time, I could only wonder whether I would ever find someone to play this song to.  I have been so lucky to find her, and even if I doubt that there is an interventionist God, I still give prayers of thanksgiving for my tremendous luck, even as I shed a tear for a great man, who at least had ten years with his beloved.

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