Chiquitita by Abba was imbued with so much affection that listening to it always makes me feel as if I’m a little girl, sitting on my mother’s lap, cocooned in her warm embrace.
Perhaps it comes from the whispered endearment, Chiquitita.
Because Chiquitita was described as having broken a feather, it aroused all my protective instincts.
The low-key soulful rendition of the song, the solo vocals sung so beautifully, with the other members of ABBA joining in the chorus.
Thanks to Chiquitita, I learned what metaphors were long before we learned figures of speech at school.
There are other metaphors – “love’s a blown-out candle.” Somewhere else, “walls came tumbling down.”
The song gave me an idea of the secret sorrows that adults carried. Perhaps that was why, unlike some of my peers, I was never in a hurry to grow up.
As a child, I wondered, for a brief while, if Chiquitita was a bird, misled by the “broken feather,” but I figured out the truth of the song soon enough. Chiquitita does that to you. It reminds you of the pain and the turmoil we suffer in the world, but also of the hope. After all, “the sun is still in the sky and shining above you.”
I also learned that if life causes us to lose our song, we mustn’t mope but “sing a new song.”
Coward of the County was one of my earliest experiences of a ballad – a story told in song. It told the story of Tommy, a boy whose father tells him on his deathbed, “It don’t mean you’re weak if you turn the other cheek,” and adds, “You don’t have to fight to be a man.”
As Tommy, grows up, he steers clear of fights and is taunted as a coward. When his girl, Becky, is raped, Tommy rescues her by fighting the Gattin boys and defends his actions to his dead father, “Poppa, I sure hope you understand, sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man.”
What I liked about the song was the story telling skills implicit in this song.
First the hero, the challenge he faces, of being branded a coward, and of how he overcomes that challenge.
There seemed to be a linear progression of thought which impressed me.
Also, Tommy had been laughed at by everyone, and his rising up to save his girl and take control, in defence, appealed to me then.
And then there was Kenny Rogers’ voice, slightly husky and matter-of-fact, almost as if he were reciting his words in sing-song fashion. I haven’t heard or sung this song in years, but as I looked for it on YouTube and played it, the words all came back to me.
A blast from the melodious past.
Cliff Richard never sang a song I didn’t like, and Congratulations was somewhere at the top of my list of songs sung by him. Cliff was the most prolific singer and a regular on Saturday Date. Not a Saturday went by when he didn’t feature on my favourite radio show.
Congratulations has long been a staple at Catholic wedding celebrations in Bombay. When the just married couple make a triumphant entry into the crowded hall, full of people waiting for them to come sauntering by solemnly and happily, it is to the beat of Congratulations blaring through the loudspeakers.
It began with the triumphant boom-boom-boom that heralded this show-stopper of a song, which seemed to invite everyone to get on to the floor, and clap their hands and shake to the rhythm of the song.
Over the years, this song has come to be played for a variety of reasons where the word, Congratulations, needed to be said, including job promotions, baby birth announcements etc.
Listening to the song, I too feel as if “I want the world to know I’m as happy as can be.”