Hey, pallie, what the heck happened to romance? I use the word “pallie” in deference to the great Dean Martin, whose birthday was celebrated last Wednesday, and whose music will be celebrated at the Dean Martin Festival in Steubenville, Ohio, next weekend.
I ask because I just looked at Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 list. Sitting at number one on the charts is “Hips Don't Lie,” by Shakira. It's on her album “Oral Fixation.” Her song is a hit, no doubt, because of its eloquent lyrics:
Nobody can ignore the way you move your body, girl
And everything so unexpected the way you right and left it
So you can keep on shaking it.
Number two on the charts is “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire, a rap performer. Here's a little taste of the song's poetry:
Tippin' down, sittin' crooked on my chrome
Bookin' my phone, tryin' to find a chick I wanna (slang expletive).
Number three on the charts is “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado:
You expect me to let you just hit it
But will you still respect me if you get it.
Ah, modern romance. Things sure have changed since Dino dropped off the charts. I think I know why: romance is dead.
Whereas the top three hits above celebrate human nature at its most base wiggling one's hips to stoke male arousal, looking for “chicks” to satisfy your urge, or wondering if a fellow will stick around after he samples the goods Dino's simple music spoke to the heart.
Consider the lyrics to “Amore”:
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
“Amore” means “love” in Italian, a mysterious and magical concept that every human longs for. Love is the basis of many of Dino's songs. It's nowhere to be found in the hit songs above.
In 1964, when the Beatles' new sound was making them the most popular band on earth, Dino knocked “Hard Day's Night” right off the charts. He did so with an old-fashioned song that resonated with all age groups, a song called “Everybody Loves Somebody”:
Everybody loves somebody sometime
Everybody falls in love somehow
Something in your kiss just told me
That sometime is now.
Whereas many of today's hit songs celebrate fear, anger and cynicism, Dino's songs celebrate sweetness and innocence. His songs are idealistic and uplifting. They are romantic!
Dino's songs celebrate the subtle dance of the spirit between a man and a woman the magic that occurs when two complementary natures collide.
They celebrate mystery the deep interest and curiosity a man holds for a woman and a woman for a man.
They celebrate hopefulness they focus on the future, on the hopes that one day a special person will enter your life and sweep you off your feet, a person you will love forever.
The simple, intense lyrics of his song “Sway” sum up this longing well:
Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you
Only you have the magic technique
When we sway I go weak.
I know Dino had his peccadilloes in his personal life, but his music remains untainted. With every passing year, as coarseness seeps into our culture, his songs hold more power over me. Their sweetness, playfulness and respectfulness uplift me.
That's why the Dean Martin Festival will be packed next weekend, as it is every year. People of every age will be singing along with the Dean Martin impersonators who imitate the lovable old rogue so well you'll think he's there in the flesh.
We'll block out the worries and cynicism of the outside world for a spell. Couples will hold hands. Some of the older folks will saunter to the front of the stage and begin to dance. They'll sway with an eloquence people knew long ago.
The way people did when there was romance.