And now here comes another point where I’ve grown pretty sick of writing about white men all the time – and who can blame me? So, for the next week or so, I’ll only be writing about singles that come from female artists. I’m so happy that the first of these I write about is for a song that is actually quite lovely and understated. Gloria Lynne was born and raised in Harlem; her mother being a gospel singer introduced Lynne to music and performance at an early age, and she sang with her African Methodist church choir as a young girl. Her career in recorded music started in the 50s, when she sang as a member of vocal groups The Dell-Tones and The Enchanters. After being discovered by Raymond Scott, she was signed to Everest and saw her career thrive in the 60s through several hit R&B singles. From all accounts, she dabbled in music through her entire life, despite an eventual fade into obscurity and a change in style from modern R&B to more traditional-sounding jazz recordings. This fact alone, along with how she remained active well into the 21st century and all the way until her death in 2013, is super impressive and makes me all the more excited to seek out even more of her work.
“I Wish You Love” was her most commercially successful work, reaching #28 in the pop charts and #3 in the R&B charts from its release in 1964. The song is actually much older than this recording, though, having been written by Charles Trenet under the title “Que reste-t-il de nos amours?”. Yep, just like “My Boy”, this is yet another sad, syrupy French ballad translated to English and appropriated for American audiences. The original song is actually a standard of sorts, its earliest recording dating all the way back to 1942 and having been re-recorded and used in a number of films since. While both the song and its popular English translation has been recorded by many, all sources I’ve seen mark Lynne’s recording as the most commercially successful, making it all the more strange with how its seemingly forgotten through the years.
The production of this particular recording falls in line with the traditional methods used in popular recordings from the likes of Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald. It’s certainly more jazzy than R&B, with major emphasis placed on the weeping strings, dramatic guitar flairs, and twinkling piano that glides along so effortlessly. Lynne herself also sounds fantastic, demonstrating a vocal style that comes of as smoky and seasoned as it does inviting and sexy. As is the case with most of these sweeping French compositions, the subject matter dwells on the melancholic, sad side of things; specifically, this song is about the end of a relationship, with the speaker wishing her former lover all the best as she bids adieu. It brings to mind a particularly touching lyric from none other than Dolly Parton: “I wish you joy and happiness / But above all of this, I wish you love”.
It’s a pretty standard weepy heartbreak ballad, and I could imagine lines like ,“My breaking heart and I agree / That you and I could never be / So with my best, my very best / I set you free” particularly resonating with listeners who may be experiencing similar woes. Some lines are a bit clunky, though, such as “In July a lemonade / To cool you in some leafy glade” which doesn’t really make much sense and is silly in relation to the more poetic lines. It actually took me a few listens to realize that she was going through the seasons of a standard year, from spring to winter, as if to anticipate the first year that they will not spend together. Realizing this actually makes the song a bit more sad – perhaps the two had shared memories involving lemonade and fireplaces, making this a sort of scrapbook piecing of memories, only now with their presence as a couple fully removed. It’s poignancy is closely related to that of Jimmy Webb’s similar kaleidoscope of memories in “MacArthur Park” (which I will forever defend as one of the finest pop songs ever).
All in all, even though this doesn’t do anything particularly innovative in its general style and creativity, it’s enjoyable to listen to in the same ways that classic recordings of jazz standards are. Gloria Lynne was certainly a talent to behold, and this is one of the finest demonstrations of her lovely voice and demeanor. It’s very easy for English translations such as these to fall into insincere, maudlin territory (see, once again, “My Boy”), but I think these translated lyrics are just fine. I could imagine another performer churning this out as plainly disposable pop fare, but Lynne adds a little extra flavor to the mix. It’s a lovely single, and one that should have shot Lynne to the well-deserved superstardom of her contemporaries.