Nostalgia is such a wonderful thing. Through the backward-gazing lens of nostalgia even the most hum-drum times radiate waves of rosy and golden warmth. The pang of regret and loss is always nearby, but remembering times past is a constant source of joy for me. Sometimes I hear a tune or smell a scent and I can barely breathe for the fear of seeing or hearing something in the now that might derail that express ride working back toward something that used to be.
Now, the Temptations’ “You’re My Everything” is an incredible pop gem — I really don’t need to polish it any further; it has a gleam all its own. But still, I must say that when the playful plucking of strings strides into that string section and then into the five Tempts all together…wow. I really do get chills up my spine sometimes. In a rich history of excellent songs, “You’re My Everything” stands out as not just among the Temptations’ greatest recordings but Motown’s as well. It’s three-plus minutes of shameless affection and revelry. Not a cloud in its sky. I mean, it must be what love sounds like, right?
And if I had just heard the song now and then in passing, it would still be as great, especially that David Ruffin bridge and he and Eddie Kendricks trading off right after. But what really gets me about it is that when those notes start at the beginning, something in the slide carousel of my memory CLICKS and the same images come back without fail.
I had an unremarkable but largely effortless job as an enumerator with the US Census Bureau a couple of years ago. I traveled to and fro, updating maps and verifying existing data. Pretty dry stuff but still interesting because I got to know my community better. What made the experience really something was that I could, as I drove about from town to town, listen to music and soak up the springtime. Even when you’re doing data-driven drudgery, if you’re outside in the springtime — fresh air, big, poofy clouds, all that — who cares, right? No one breathing down your neck, and you can take your time as you please.
And the music I listened to was, you may have guessed, the Temptations. One day I decided — and I don’t recall why or what prompted the question — that I really liked the Tempts but hadn’t given them a real go yet. So I did. I loaded up my iPod with their greatest hits and left it all on repeat while I puttered about out and about day after day. It all soaked in, and it really took. I even dug David Ruffin so much I scooped up his solo work, and the same damn thing happened all over again. It was the best!
So now, having that fine alchemy of springtime and the Tempts seep into my memory track while it was good and ready to record, that’s the scene that replays each time “You’re My Everything” starts. Every single time without fail. My heart rate picks up, I move around a little in what would charitably be called a dance, and, when no one’s around, I contribute to the harmony when the Tempts chip in theirs.
I try not to listen to the song too often for fear that its magic might wear off. It hasn’t yet, and I hope it doesn’t. I don’t want to forget any of it. In my life the scenery and the characters change too frequently (and often quite without notice). All that’s really constant is what I can keep in memory and prompt at will with a well-timed song. This will account for my preoccupation with pop music.