by request: alphaville (jean-luc godard, 1965)
2012 rubio begonias, roto version

music friday: etta james, “i'd rather go blind”

I’m not always big on lyrics. Usually what hits me in a song is the music. Which isn’t to say lyrics are unimportant, or that I don’t have favorites. But I love sound. And Etta James’ singing, well, there’s something to love.

Yet, I have to say that “I’d Rather Go Blind” is just about the perfect title for a perfect lyric. The emotion at the center of that title rips you up before you’ve heard a note, before you even know the context. I would rather go blind … whatever follows is going to be something.

That it is. It’s a song about the departure of a lover, and how the singer would rather go blind than to see her lover walk away. The second verse pushes the emotions far past even the deep feelings in the opening: “I love you so much that I don’t wanna watch you leave me, baby. Most of all, I just don’t want to be free.”

I don’t want to be free. That’s two very powerful images, and by that point, I’d say it would be pretty hard to screw this song up. (I’m sure it’s been done, but thankfully, I’ve missed it.)

This was also a perfect matchup of singer and song, for Etta James could wrench emotion out of a turnip.

There’s no topping the original, but the song has lent itself well to other interpretations. Christine McVie did a fine job when she was still Christine Perfect (there’s that word again) in Chicken Shack:

Rod Stewart nailed it, back when he could do no wrong:

And, of course, Beyoncé was good playing Etta in Cadillac Records:

Finally, Bruce Springsteen took the idea and transformed it into his own song, “I Wish I Were Blind”:

And though this world is filled
With the grace and beauty of God's hand
Oh I wish I were blind
When I see you with your man