Suppose, I were to tell you that I believe that if you’re looking for the most essential, most non-pareil experience of love as it bursts from the heart of the inconsequential flesh of a soaring lover’s body, you should look no further than “This Nearly Was Mine,” the most heartwrenching cry of a heart heartily hammering for another that a kid could ever ask for.
You might remember it and shout, why! How!, you’d plead, when the soaring Rogersandhammerstinian love ballad is by no means a rare bird of any kind? Come now, how could this old thing speak love when it sidles along hundreds of sibling songs—songs, you might add, that the cultural fabric of a population of certain mid-century modern suburbian origin is positively beige with.
For instance, you’d suggest, consider this everlovin’ly tedious list of, ahem: “Some Enchanted Evening,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” “Blue Moon,” “Dancing on the Ceiling,” “Hello, Young Lovers,” “Impossible,” and “Something Good.” They’re clichéed as red roses and blue violets. Still more, they’re old fashioned. Why grovel in someone else’s youth? In 2017 when so much has changed and standards for love have expanded to include more than boy meets girl. Really, “one girl for my dream, one partner in paradise?” Why return to this simplistic, misogynistic iteration of the s0-many so-similar swankified treatises on the banalest of three little words? [1) I 2) Love 3) You.]
Come now, you’d sigh, R&H knew their audience like Coca-Cola knows kids. They wrote as though the hearts of their admiring public were the strings of their personal harp. Don’t be a lemming.
For years, you’d rage, we have all been been distracting ourselves with a Rodgers and Hammerstein fugue perpetuated by dopey susceptible hearts. The harmonies have blurred. The old words are umph-less. What’s one man’s beautiful yearning from another, you know? Why a man? Why one girl? What’s love anyway?
I’d give up and turn on the television, donning the figuratively frilly socks of a pre-woman, approximately twelve years old, not yet un-thrilled by the handsome men and women prancing across the screens of the mystical musical volumes her parents parade from the dusty corners of their American consciousness. I’d stick us on the couch between the deleted commercial breaks of a Dick Van Dyke Show episode about a hapless gorgeous young man just trying to make it big with the latest dance craze, to numb us.
Then, BANG, right in the final scene of one of the humdrummer of American television exploits, “This Nearly Was Mine” pours out of this stupid protagonist guy, otherwise completely not extraordinary in his occupation of the red-blooded American male archetype. See how it transforms him, shaking a little, a little off-key, like the crème-de-la-crèmeyiest performers of high school theater stages. Remember? Remember what life was like when love still felt like something critical you had to understand?? More critical than algebra?? More everywhere???
See! “This Nearly Was Mine” is the heart beating in the middle of the whole R&H establishment. In the midst of their formidable canon, the composers knew it was too good to be true. Love, in its essence, eludes. It ain’t the thing. We know it, they knew it. The melodies, the gorgeous couples, the star-crossings, they are all chimeras. The ellusivity is the reason. Love may or may not exist, ontologically speaking. And yet, it nears us all the time. Love, flies, star-like, just by us, toward the moonlight, felt never held.
This melody, though, these words, they say exactly what you’ve been saying, again and again, that we’re all just standing here yearning with our hearts sleeve-sewn and our heads in the clouds.
You see that we agree, non? That no matter who and what we are, we can’t help but be mostly dreaming of paradise, and smiling about it, blushing, because no matter how far away it is, it explains why it feels so terrific just to stand still in the living room, yearning.