I Can’t Make You Love Me

Sometimes… I hear a song and it has an indelible memory attached to it. Actually – this happens more often than not. One friend recently accused me of being so lost in a song that provoked a memory so intense that my company was useless at that time. I was so busy reminiscing. I feel music that way sometimes. And these memories are kind of locked in my head (for safe keeping). I figured, before I become too feeble minded… let me log them here.

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” – Bonnie Raitt.

I know – NOT your typical fare for a hip hop and r&b music lover. But I’ve always advocated to my friends about country music. That shit? Is real. If you wanna hear about some heartache… Get yourself some Kenny Rogers… or some Dolly Parton… or Bonnie…

First time I heard about this song, I was in high schoool… maybe about 14 or so. And there were THE Couples in HS. You know… the ones that you just knew were going to graduate and go to the same college and end up getting married and be able to tell the story that they were “High School Sweethearts”. (Little did I know I’d end up being on of those couples – but we also know that the ending promised to us doesn’t always go that way). Anyway… THE BLACK couple at school like that were Charlotte and John. John and Charlotte. Anywhere in Saint Francis Prep that you went and said “Charlotte and John” – people knew… that was REAL love. They were going to get married and have BEAUTIFUL babies. Charlotte was (is – I’m SURE she’s still alive somewhere) light skinned, had very prominent “indian” features; LONG (mid back length) thick dark wavy hair. Small frame. (like mine… back then). Delicate hands, delicate features. And a soft lilty voice when she sang in choir (which is where I knew her from). John was dark chocolate… low cut Caesar / bald… brawny. Gentle in his ways but you could tell he was tough. No nonsense. And he loved his woman. What a powerful trumpeter when he did his solos in the Jazz Ensemble. They were going to be together FOREVER…

Until they weren’t.

And no one knows why. Some blamed John. Charlotte blamed him… once when we spoke about it. It was much like speaking to your parents about their divorce. You KNOW it’s none of your business… but you’d hope they’d share the pitfalls with you so that perhaps you can avoid them should you ever stumble across a similar situation. So me, being only a sophomore and her being a senior… I listened. I listened carefully.

She spoke of the hurt. She spoke of the pain of realization that nothing was ever going to be the sam and how she’d have to come to terms with that… And how funny it was that when people were driving down their blocks bumping Onyx or Tribe… here she was… playing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” at the height of her jeep’s speaker’s abilities. Trying to emote to the world what was happening to her. And for me – the outsider – I couldn’t FATHOM how John couldn’t LOVE her… how he might put her in a position to feel so unloved and unwelcome and unwanted. She was beautiful. She was his… Back then… it was so hard to wrap my mind around.

It really really isn’t anymore. Some realizations come with time and experience. And this has become a favorite song of mine over the years.


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