But I Can't Stop Trying I Can't Give Up Hope: Don't Put This On Your Mix CD

When it comes to romance, the older I get the more I find myself turning into a fascist.

I'm not bitter -- in fact I love the idea of love, or at least my idea of love, which includes such radical components as "should make you happier than it makes you sad" and "shouldn't be all that complicated". I am not a fan, however, of ideas of love that are based on co-dependency or mediocrity or that every kiss begins with Kay.

(Well that last one is just OBVIOUSLY wrong, am I right? If you see me at the gym and I am heaving a series of exasperated sighs, it's most likely because of those commercials. It's hard, being a pedantic literalist at Christmastime.)

What I mean to say is that very often in music, as in life, what is presented as "love" is actually a toxic bruise of negativity wrapping a rotten core. So if, by any chance, you find yourself in the very specific situation of looking for a 60s R&B jam to put on your romantic love mix this holiday season, may I offer a suggestion?

Not this song:

The song: The Miracles, "Ooh Baby Baby"; 1965

He cheated on his lady, she broke up with him, he's at the end of his rope, he's crying, but he is convinced that he still loves her -- and also reminds her that she's made mistakes too.

Great. Lovely. Real nice.

This song is NOT romantic. It's a pretty good picture of what happens to somebody who takes life and lack of consequences for granted (and a really good response to this sort of thing can, by the way, be found in Gladys Knight's super-wonderful song "The Only Time You Love Me [Is When You're Losing Me]"). But it's not romantic, by which I mean that it's not an inspiration to love well.

(And it is very not romantic to "fight" for a relationship that's clearly dead and bad. So seriously, Smokey: give up hope. It's cleaner that way.)

This song might be better:

The song: Aaron Neville, "Tell It Like It Is"; 1967

This gets a lot closer to romance for me because of its exhortation to "go on and live, baby" (as previously discussed, me = a big sucker for that sort of thing) and its straightforwardness. Yeah! Tell it like it is! That's a good thing!

But if I were making a romantic love mix this holiday season -- I'm not -- but if I WERE:

The song: Brenton Wood, "I Like The Way You Love Me"; 1967

This would almost certainly be on it. It's not radical, but I appreciate its focus on hey, the other person in the relationship, as well as on the relationship itself.

But, who am I kidding, it all comes down to that chiming crescendo in the background. I am not sure what instrument produced it, perhaps a marimba, but it certainly does melt this fascist's heart.