What the World Needs Now

 

Around lunchtime, we were in the car, and a few raindrops fell on the windshield. We’d been expecting a downpour this weekend, but until that moment it had been dry.

“What’s that song about raindrops?” my husband asked.

“Raindrops keep falling on my head,” I began to sing, “but that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red, crying’s not for me, no, I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin’, because I’m free, nothin’s worrying me.”

I don’t think I’d even thought about that song in twenty years. Or longer. Tonight I was startled to see that Hal David, the lyricist, had died this morning in Los Angeles, at the age of 91, about the time I began to sing his song. Hal David wrote a lot of songs with Burt Bacharach. It’s testimony to their ability that just reading the title will start the tune in your head: “What’s Up, Pussycat?”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, “Walk on By”, “Alfie”,  “One Less Bell to Answer.”

He also wrote, with Bacharach, “What the World Needs Now”.  The song was originally offered to Dionne Warwick, but she took a pass on that one and it was originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon, and then later by a whole host of others, including Judy Garland, Cilla Black, Mr. Bungle and Coldplay.

Perhaps most notably, it was remixed in 1971 by a Los Angeles disc jockey, Tom Clay, into a pastiche that included newsreel audio, an interview with a child, speeches by Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Teddy Kennedy’s eulogy for his brother and the chorus from “Abraham, Martin and John,” a mediocre folksong written by Dick Holler and recorded by Dion. The Tom Clay version of “What the World Needs Now” reached number 8 on the Billboard top 100. When I’d hear it on the radio, I’d stop what I was doing and listen, and every time, it made me cry.

If you lived through that time the aural portraits of these events: Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, and President Kennedy and Senator Kennedy bring it all back in vivid focus. Those were some of the most painful touchstones of my childhood, one not without its own drama, but those events shaped me, and indeed, all of us who lived through them.

There are a couple of You Tube videos of Tom Clay’s re-mix, and I’ve chosen the one that I think is the overall best, but apologize in advance that the filmmaker included so much unnecessary footage of things like time-laspe flowers blooming.

It’s all so heartbreaking: the worried face of an American soldier, Jackie Kennedy scrambling over the top of the limousine, Martin Luther King saying he’d like to live, Americans lined up along the tracks to salute the train carrying Senator Kennedy’s body to its grave. (Those photographs, by Paul Fusco, can be seen here also in an interactive feature from the New York Times. The accompanying article is here.) Bobby Kennedy’s eulogy, delivered by his brother Ted, could be a prescription for all of us:

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

It seems that we’ve learned nothing in the last 40 years. We still have bigotry and prejudice, it’s just hidden a little better. God forbid you call the racists on their behavior, they just turn around and accuse you of “playing the race card.”  Then it was Vietnam, now it’s Afghanistan. Men like Bobby Kennedy rarely even attempt politics anymore, it’s been so thoroughly corrupted by the likes of Citizens United. We’ve seen the Republican candidate illegally raise campaign money offshore, refuse to release his tax returns, and deliver promises to undo support for the arts, women’s healthcare, (hell, healthcare in general) reproductive rights and more, and yet people accept this with no more than a shrug of the shoulders because the other guy is black.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love.

Today’s target 70 Steps 5457

Breakfast: yogurt with granola, quarter cup of trail mix Lunch: lentil soup with a tablespoon of sour cream Dinner: 10 oz ribeye, trimmed of fat, two-thirds of an ear of corn, half a cup of mashed sweet potatoes. Cup of watermelon. 

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