Amber Sweeney

Amber Sweeney is an accomplished soul-rock singer and songwriter from the Pacific Northwest

Song Crush Sunday - "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt

Valentines Day is over. A relief for most of us. America’s great commercial holiday about love and romance has a variety of real life meanings and experiences, so it makes sense to me that this week’s Song Crush Sunday be about love. And what makes for a better love song than a blues song made famous by none other than one of my musical heroes, Bonnie Raitt.

I Can’t Make You Love Me, written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin is not an easy song to listen to if you’re in love with someone, or having any kind of sadness in your life, but it is an incredibly relatable and vulnerable song. I don’t need to say much about this, since it has been called one of the greatest songs of all time, but I do want to take a minute to share my thoughts on why this song means so much to me.

Let’s start with the production. Don Was co-produced this with Bonnie Raitt. Their approach to keeping this song simple, highlighting the emotion that came from Bonnie and pianist Bruce Hornsby’s performances is what makes this song so powerful. So many people try to overdo songs like these with great volume, unending melodic runs, and in a sense “over-act” the tune. That's what makes this production so incredible to me. The emotion is raw and simple. The desire to be loved, even though it’s evident that the other party simply doesn’t return that love is both painful and common, and so well articulated in the production of this song. It’s a simple, powerful statement, and no one captures is the way Bonnie, Don, and Bruce can. Period.

Now, let’s talk about those incredible songwriters. Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin are actually country writers, and as rumor has it, they had written and re-written this song for quite some time. When it finally clicked, they knew they had made something magical. The thing I love most about this song is that they were inspired by a headline in a newspaper about a tragic end to a relationship. A testament to how inspiration can find you anywhere, at any time, even if the story didn’t come from your own experience. I imagine these two have gone through things that added to the story they created, but it started in an experience not their own.

To me, this song is more than just a feeling, or wishing desperately for some kind of romantic love. Songs like this are not always about romance for me. Sometimes they are about family, friends, and relationships you wish had different endings. In the end, we are given tools to mourn when that love is not returned. If we learn to stay open, honest, and realize that love and friendship lost is not the sword that runs through us, then we will see the beauty in what we had, and stay malleable for the love that is meant to find and shape us in the future. It is far better to let someone go, than to force them to stay.  

Here is to letting go, and to trusting that Love is always there, patiently waiting for us to discover it, and it us.

As always, Listen With Your Heart

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