Jim CroceI received a copy of The Very Best of Jim Croce for Valentine’s Day. Croce was an American singer-songwriter who died in an air crash in 1973 just as his career was taking off.

As I played the CD I was reminded of two of my basic convictions: that everybody loves a love song, and that the best love songs are sad ones. Here is evidence from Mr. Croce.

“If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you.” [Time in a Bottle]


“Photographs and memories
Christmas cards you sent to me
All that I have are these
To remember you

Memories that come at night
Take me to another time
Back to a happier day
When I called you mine.” [Photographs and memories]

Heard at the wrong time and in the wrong light, songs like these tap into a deep vein of melancholy and unleash a sadness so strong it is scary.

Maybe I am melancholic by nature. And yes I have had my share of heartaches. But I am not convinced that these alone can explain away my affinity for sad songs. Or why so many of us have this love-hate relationship with sad love songs.

Sometimes it seems that the whole world is singing the blues. The blues seem to be the music form that is most authentically human. It seems all of us are pining for some love now lost, back at some happier time.

This is my theory. We all pine for a love now lost because once we all enjoyed the perfect love of a perfect partner. I believe that we all have a sad love song as the sound track of our lives because our soul remembers a perfect love that we have lost.

You know where this is leading. This is a trail that leads back to Eden. There we read of a God who created us so He could shower His love on us. Here is a love we can never fully experience this side of heaven. A love perfect, received by those yet untainted by sin. What was it like for Adam and Eve before the Fall?

This then is the tragedy of the human race, created for a perfect love that we can no longer experience. No wonder we sing the blues. And end up looking for love in all the wrong places. Even on Brokeback Mountain.

I know many readers of this column will be upset by this movie for its portrayal of homosexual love and its agenda to portray it as normal. Readers of this column will also know that I stand convinced that Scripture clearly teaches that homosexual sexual expression is wrong. Yet the movie may serve to remind us that homosexual love is another way we “look for love in all the wrong places.” And we all do that.

We will only and finally be satisfied when we return to God our Maker and Saviour, for the love we crave, for the love we need. But those who do not know the way home or can’t find it in themselves to go home, will seek to be saved by all sorts of other loves. Croce again:

“Operator, oh could you help me place this call ’cause I can’t read the number that you just gave me There’s something in my eyes You know it happens every time I think about the love that I thought would save me.” [Operator]

We all have had our flings with loves we thought could save us. The list is long: people, sex, pleasure, careerism, alcohol, drugs, altruism? The writer of Ecclesiastes gives us quite a comprehensive list and ends up singing the blues too because he finds out that in the end, it is all meaningless.

But here is another song.

“O the deep deep love of Jesus vast unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me, underneath me, all around me is the current of thy love – leading onward, leading homeward, to my glorious rest above.” (S Trevor Francis)

What if, what if the perfect partner with the perfect love didn’t give up? Sounds exactly like what a perfect lover would do.

For all blues-singing, sad, lonely lovers out there, here is the word:

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” [John 15: 9-13 NRSV]

For those who hear, for those who dare to believe – and I know it is so hard to believe sometimes – here is the love we miss, and yearn for, and need.

It is hard to believe that we don’t have to sing the blues. It is hard to believe that we can be singing songs of joy. Some of us actually pride ourselves in being blues singers. We rather sing the blues than go home to Love. Pity.

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan