Favorite version: Jimmy Webb, Letters, 1972
(excerpt from Jimmy & Me album notes):
Jimmy didn’t write this song, but I “discovered” it on his Letters album. And the way he sings it, he might as well have written it. As I said, I often performed it, and I think I rather shocked people with it. I was doing contemporary Christian music mostly, and whenever I’d unleash this one… Well, jaws dropped. It’s the flip side of the coin, you see. Love could not be quite so wonderful and heavenly if it could not also hurt like hell. In my experience, being honest about the down side always seems to open up the heights, too (eventually). Which is usually what happened in those concerts. The more honest we are about who we are, the more God can speak and love through us. We tear down the barriers and become the open channels we were meant to be. This song lays bare the soul and cleans out the spirit. It’s part of that human truth we were talking about earlier. Not an easy part, mind you, but a part just the same. As C.S. Lewis says in Shadowlands, “the pain now is part of the joy then.” Or was it, “the joy now is part of the pain then”? Either way, it’s just one side of the coin, and you can’t have one side without the possibility of the other.
But take heart, listener. You’re not alone. And we’re heading upward from here.