Thursday, January 14, 2010

'Close the Door' -- I get it today

Yesterday, due to cancer, the music world lost Teddy Pendergrass, who originally gained fame as lead vocalist for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and who later became a successful solo artist. A 1982 auto accident left him a paraplegic, but he continued to sing until about three years ago.

His breakout hit was the Gamble-and-Huff ballad "Close the Door," which was released in the fall of 1978, my senior year in high school, and I remember believing that it was horrible because, in my mind, it clearly referred to sex.

What I didn't get then, however, was the context.

In a way, that's understandable. I grew up in a conservative religious tradition where such things were frowned upon. Furthermore, right around that time my parents' marriage, which in retrospect was never that good, was beginning to fall apart. Then, I didn't have opportunities to date (and to this day still haven't had many).

But about seven years ago, after a lifetime of singleness that included some less-than-ideal dating situations, I decided that marriage was something that I really wanted. Sometime after that, I heard that song again for the first time in decades.

Close the door/Let me give you what you've been waiting for ...

It started to click at that point.

Because it turns out that the song is about what he wants to do for, not to, a woman. And not just any woman, either -- his woman, the one with whom he was already building a history. In other words, I realized that "Close the Door" is about true intimacy within a committed relationship. Even now I get misty-eyed just thinking about it, hoping one day those will be my words.

So thank you, Teddy, for singing that song way back then, even though I couldn't appreciate it at the time.

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