Ain't No Sunshine

Entertaining a guest tonight - an unwelcome bitch known as the Fairy of Godawful Loneliness.  Had I known she'd be visiting, I'd have gone out for a little while to avoid being home when she called, but I was exhausted, and my crazy-busy-need-to-prioritize-and-focus season isn't gonna be over for another week or so.  So I left rehearsal with a simple plan: go home, learn my song, catch up on 30 Rock, get a full night's sleep.  Somewhere between Hell's Kitchen and the Upper East Side, it came crashing down on me like a potted plant falling from a high-rise apartment window: I do not want to go home alone to my empty apartment this Friday night. 

Misery loves company, because misery is f***ing lonely.  But misery tends to prefer miserable company, because one never wants to be the one who is raining on the parade of people who are in a more cheerful place.  So in the absence (thank goodness) of miserable, lonely, pathetic people to be miserable and lonely and pathetic with, I turned to my song, which I had earlier determined would be "Ain't No Sunshine" (maybe I did have an inkling the Fairy of Godawful Loneliness would be visiting, after all). 

What is it about the blues that makes hurt feel so good?

Geekery, and my wholly unresearched opinion:

Structure.  When nothing else can be counted upon for support - no relationship, no job, no comforting habit - a simple chord progression is like a solid steel frame.  You can hang anything on it.  It is at once completely solid and reliable, and nearly unlimited in its scope for variation (in other words, the perfect spouse). 

The absence of the leading tone.  "Ti" in solfege - called the leading tone because it leads to the resolution to the tonic chord.  The leading tone is that perky friend you avoid when you want to wallow in a bad mood - you always know what she's going to say.  If she's an alto, she will resolve down a major third to "sol." If she's a soprano, she will almost invariably go up a happy little half step to "do".  Give me the flatted seventh any day of the week - it has to climb a whole step to get home.  For example: "she's always GONE TOOoo LO-ONG anytime she GOES A-way.  It's at once sadder (lower = sad, remember?) and more ... relaxed? than that perky leading tone.

Speaking of relax/release - last but not least we have the fact that the blues is really a vocal genre, and everything descended from it owes much to the human voice and its ability to express both ecstasy and despair.  Spanish has one word that captures perfectly art's ability to express this quintessential duality of life - duende.  The closest English translation is "soul", but that doesn't quite get it.  The repetition of simple phrases with a little variation, the cry, the steady pulse and progression of the harmony providing a stable podium on which to have your say... 

I'm gonna have to geek out on this more later - I'm falling asleep.  I listened to Bill Winters' version and Eva Cassidy's - will have to remember to check out some of the billion other covers.  I played along with the piano solo on Eva Cassidy's version (trying to find a credit for pianist and can't...?), will do that again.  I feel better now.  Hooray D minor blues.  And now hooray sleep...