In the early 1960’s, when I was still fairly young, there was a song I loved that would play on the radio. It was called “My Boy Lollipop” by Millie Small. Her voice was childlike and the rhythm was catchy and it was something that was simply fun to listen to. I was always so happy when it came on the car radio, and would make my dad turn it up so I could sing along:
My boy lollipop/you make my heart go giddyup/you are as sweet as candy/you are my sugar dandy…
I was a kid. Somehow this made sense to me.
But there were a couple of songs I would hear on our long drives to Columbus that puzzled me. One was a fairly happy tune, with puzzling lyrics. And one was seriously mournful and gave me a dysfunctional picture of what a loving relationship can be.
The first is “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” by Gale Garnett. The story in this song begins like this:
I could never love you
The cost of love’s too dear
But though I’ll never love you
I’ll stay with you one year
We’ll sing in the sunshine
We’ll laugh every day
We’ll sing in the sunshine
Then I’ll be on my way.
As a child, I thought this was the strangest lyric ever. Why would you promise to stay with someone for one year, have a great time, and then abandon them? How do you know you aren’t going to love? And isn’t it the man’s job to run away, not the woman’s? The fact it was a woman singing was even more confusing, honestly. Even at my young age, I thought the whole premise of this relationship was out of whack, and I felt like the singer, although sounding very sincere, was actually pretty cruel.
In fact, I still do. But at least now I get it a little better. I know there are people who never love again once they’ve been hurt. I’ve known them personally. I also see what it has done to them — and they aren’t singing in the sunshine.
The other song was “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield. Springfield’s voice is pure longing in this, and I do adore her as a singer. But as a young girl trying to figure out the world, I know that the words:
You don’t have to say you love me/just be close at hand/you don’t have to stay forever/I will understand
were really not healthy. She is begging throughout the entire song for the one she loves to just hang around, even if he doesn’t love her. It wasn’t until I grew older and wiser I realized that this is the hallmark of neediness and sick attachment.
Still, I love all of these songs. I realize now they all took a stand in daring to be human in expressing fully and unequivocally what you want and need. As an adult, I can appreciate Gale’s desire for independence and freedom, and I understand Dusty was singing a torch ballad that has its place in the musical canon.
What puzzles me now is the Millie Small song.
Recently I learned this was the first reggae song played on popular radio. Millie is from Jamaica, which accounted for her weird sounding voice. That alone was pretty advanced for the times. But the words! How did THAT get played? I hear it now and I think it is just obscene! Well, the chorus. The rest really is rather innocent. And perhaps it is just my dirty Catholic school girl mind changing that lollipop into something it was never meant to be. 😉
I watched the video below again and, okay, I get it. Pure innocence. Sweetness and light. It’s just a metaphor for how sweet her love is for him. Nothing raunchy or over-sexualized here.
Thank you, Millie, for being the one who knew how to reach a young girl with a picture of love that requires some sugar along with the spice.