May 12, 2011
If You Leave Me Now
Chicago's 1976 #1 hit, "If You Leave Me Now", holds a distinct honor as my own personal Worst Song Ever (a prestige it currently shares with "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton.) The treacly strings, the horn section stripped of all soulfulness, and worst of all, that melismatic falsetto moaning of Peter Cetera, the band's lead singer.
The thing is, this song starts out OK, with a little bit of '70's soft rock sincerity: "If you leave me now, you'll take away the biggest part of me". But then the second line comes in, "Ooo Hooo HOOO-OOO, NO-OOO, baby, ple-EEEASE don't GO-OOO!" It's a teeth-gnashingly visceral aural horror. Here's the band performing the song live on TV, with spectacularly silly '70's video embellishment (see photo above).
So this morning, I heard a good interview with Will Ferrell on NPR about his new movie, Everything Must Go, where he plays a drunk sad sack whose wife kicks him out of the house, leading him to set up his living area in the front yard.
Ferrell says that to tap into his own dark feelings of abandonment, he remembered when his parents got divorced when he was 8, and his mom would leave him alone in the car while she shopped for groceries while he listened to the radio. He specifically mentions Chicago as the band that made him feel the saddest, then he actually starts singing "If You Leave Me Now", right there on NPR, because of all the memories he has of his parents getting divorced and feeling sad and alone, that song is the single best expression of human misery. [Here's the audio clip, singing is at 4:40.]
I bet Will Ferrell doesn't actually like "If You Leave Me Now" any more than I do, but he seems to have accepted its special, odious role in his life with more maturity and grace than I'll ever have.
He also brought the song up in a People interview for Talladega Nights in 2006, when he says it's the song he would choose if he were an "American Idol" finalist, and then he and John C. Reilly start singing it together. This guy's been living with the pain of "If You Leave Me Now" for a long time.
My favorite use of the song is in Three Kings, when metal fan soldier Spike Jonze grudgingly plays it on his car stereo on his way to a raid in Iraq, after an earlier scene where Ice Cube suggests that the best pump-up music to listen to when going into a combat situation isn't Judas Priest, but "easy listening classics." The horrors of war.
Here's the video:
TrackBack URL for this entry: