Inspiration Through Music: Lou Rawls

Little known fact: I really enjoy listening to jazz or blues in my off time. I especially like listening to it on Saturday night, because that’s my first night off from work. For me these genres of music just make me feel a little more home free, like it’s finally my time to relax and spend doing what I want to do. Most of the time, they relax me into the mood of writing and don’t necessarily inspire certain projects. However, there are always exceptions. Lou Rawls is one of those exceptions. I was introduced to Rawls music by his song ‘Nobody But Me’ on the soundtrack for What Women Want and it immediately became one of my favorites. I also discovered that he was the voice behind some of the music from the Garfield holiday specials that they used to air on television when I was a kid. Naturally, I spent a few years really listening to his music and enjoying the diversity in it. This week, I’ve selected five of his songs for you and have written about what it is that I see when I listen to them.

Dead End Street: He starts the car and rolls through the streets. It’s the first time he’s been back in the city in nearly ten years. Everything seems to have changed. The house he grew up in is now vacant, the windows smashed in and the paint splotchy on the outside. He remembered the gang he used to run with, remembered how he stayed with them straight through his junior years into a young adult, gaining more influence and power with the more damage he caused. Things had changed when he’d had to leave ten years ago. Those ten years had made him a different person. But deep down, beneath the skin, he was still that same person he’d grown up as. He doesn’t know if he can continue to stay honest now that he’s back in familiar territory. (The original lyrics for this song are pretty amazing to listen to, especially the version with the monologue before the singing.)

Trouble Down Here Below: He ran to the end of the hall, just as he heard the gun reloading in the bedroom. He throws himself down the stairs just as the buckshot explodes into the wall near where he is standing. He tumbles down to the ground floor, picks himself up and pushes out the front door. In the warm night with the smell of the sweet grass, he races for cover, knowing that the man with the gun isn’t too far behind. To think that all he wanted was to ask one simple question to a girl… he hadn’t expected to be dodging bullets. A bush beside him explodes, leaves flying in his vision as he veers to the right. How was he supposed to know that she was married…?

Your Good Thing (Is About To End): He glanced up toward her window, watching her silhouette in the window. He remembered when they were younger when he’d sneak out of his parent’s house and come to hers in the middle of the night, throw pebbles up at her window and tell her to come out with him. Now, she was getting ready to go out… but with someone else. He shoves his hands into his pants pockets and frowns. He doesn’t know when things changed but it seemed as if all of a sudden, she lost interest… she decided that he wasn’t worth her time any more. It’s a shame, he decides, as he walks off into the night. She doesn’t know what she’s losing. And some other lucky woman out there will be more deserving of his love.

Breaking My Back (Instead of Using My Mind): 1930 Prohibition. I see a montage of scenes dealing with illegal alcohol shipments, money being counted, cars driving in the dead of night to meet with other contacts, and customers enjoying this drink in gin joints all over the city. Meanwhile the people running the alcohol are getting rich, even as the police begin cracking down on them. I guess it could be a reverse Untouchables kind of vibe I’m getting with this song. It’s just got a great rhythm and in terms of the lyrics, they are kind of sarcastic with the prohibition angle.

Gloomy Sunday: The street lamp seems pale in the rain as he walks down the street away from his home. There has been too much death now… there has been too much pain that he’s brought back to the city. He thought he could change things if he came back, thought he could turn around all of the bad things he’d done. But it was too late. And he should have known that it would take much more than just a few apologies here and there to take care of things. Now, he’d lost one of the things he’d cared about the most, something he could never get back. He walked further into the dark, not daring to look back over his shoulder. He could never come back. He needed to leave this place far behind… (In my opinion, there is no way that someone can sing this song and not deliver an emotional performance while doing so. This is one of my favorites by Lou Rawls and I can really feel the pain in his voice when he sings it.)

Next week on Inspiration Through Music, we’ll be looking at a few songs from the brilliant soundtrack of this phenomenal indie game I was introduced to last week called “To The Moon”. Stay tuned!


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