Thursday, January 28, 2010

Old Song Review: Jim Croce - Operator

So your host does a lot of blogging about new music. I feel there's an opportunity here to broaden the interest in the blog by covering some older stuff. Here's the plan: every once in a while I'll review an old song. That's it. Unless I really know something about the singers or songwriters I'll generally stick to my take on the song, not the history behind it.

Today I heard this song in a store and remembered how much I loved it. The number is Operator, by Jim Croce. I've never felt the way the narrator in this song feels (because that of that situation, I mean) but I love the melancholy and despair that this fellow feels. It's a moving song. My highest praise in a piece of art is that it moved me. It doesn't happen often but when it does it's amazing. The song goes something like this . . . I can relate to the feeling of telling yourself, or someone else something to try to convince yourself that what you're saying is true. I realize that's a confusing sentence. Basically it's about trying to convince yourself that you're okay.

The second thing I love about this song is that it tells a story. I'll admit that that I love to beat the beat and listen to hip-hip, pop, club, and anything that makes you want to move your body, but my favorite kinds of songs are those that tell stories. Repeating the hook over and over again gets old, even if it's really good. This is one of the reasons I like rap and LOVE the notorious B.I.G. Look at some of those lyrics, especially those for Juicy; good rap entries often tell stories. I love Juicy, but that's for another day. Back to Jim Croce's Operator.

The story of the lyrics conjures the image of a man, soaking wet in an anonymous phone booth on some street corner in the city. It's pouring rain outside the booth and his hair is plastered to his forehead. His suit is soaked and has that clingy quality that wet suits get, especially the arms as he hold the phone receiver to his ear. You can't really tell if there are tears on his cheeks because of the rain, but you can see the anguish in his face. He leans against the top of the payphone with his head on his forearm.

He's trying to call his lost lover who ran away with his good friend, Ray. He wants to tell them that he's doing fine and doesn't need them, but the very act of seeking to do this confirms that he hasn't "overcome the blow." The operator never makes a peep in this song. She presumably gives the man the number at some point but really, the man just needs a shoulder to lean on. By the end of the conversation with the operator, the man decides that he doesn't need to make the call after all. He's still crushed but the operators been so much more than kind. We all need someone kind, and I love this old song.

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