Monday, November 03, 2014

Chi-Lites, "Oh Girl" (1972)

April 15, 1972, #1

It doesn't take long for the vocal to come in on the Chi-Lites' big #1 moment, their biggest in a career that spanned four decades and five top 40 appearances. Just some 15 seconds, but already you are plunged into the burden of the profound sadness it carries. The slow, falling-forward tempo, the softly honking harmonica on loan from Brook Benton, those damn beautiful strings. It's clearly not a good day in the world of this song, confirmed when the first sound from the lead vocalist (presumably songwriter and producer Eugene Record)—who brings it—is an aching moan. "Ohhhh girl, I'd be in trouble if you left me now," and we're off. It is a relationship in the state of fuck, meaning that when you wake in the morning the first words in your mind are, "Oh fuck." The relationship is over. It's on. It's off. He wants to be with her. He doesn't want to be with her. She wants to be with him. She doesn't want to be with him. Somebody slept with somebody else. Then somebody else did too. Loves me, loves me not, loves me, loves me not. Much like "Me and Mrs. Jones," a hit by Billy Paul later that same year, "Oh Girl" is about keeping it real on the top 40 radio. It's hard to overstate the impact this song can have. It can sound like every worst moment in every bad relationship ever at some points, especially when the evading, back-stepping notes of regret and unfounded hope start: "I don't know where to look for love / I just don't know how / Oh girl, how I depend on you." For everyone stepping out on that ledge, here's your moment. Cue it up. Cry. You know it's going to be good for you.

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