FINISHING THE HAT: “My Lifelong Love” – A Conversation with Georgia Stitt
Georgia Stitt is superwoman. Not only is she among the most honest writers working today, she wears more hats in one year than most of us do in a lifetime. There are two simple reasons. First, Ms. Stitt is smart and incredibly gifted. That combination has yielded much-lauded projects like The Water, Big Red Sun, and The Danger Year – as well as her star-studded recordings This Ordinary Thursday (a personal favorite) and her latest, My Lifelong Love. And that’s not all – she has served as producer and arranger on several other recordings, on-set music supervisor for Richard LaGravenese’s adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, and vocal and production work on NBC’s Grease: You’re The One That I Want and America’s Got Talent as well as ABC’s Once Upon A Mattress (with Carol Burnett). And in winter 2013, she was among the cast of NBC’s The Sound of Music LIVE! If you don’t know Georgia, “My Lifelong Love” is a great place to start. Here, she discusses the song:
THE STORY: “My Lifelong Love” is, on the surface, about young love in all its charm, awkwardness, and longing. At its core, it is about how we ALL love, wish we loved, and remember our first love.
HE WASN’T MUCH TO LOOK AT.
I WOULDN’T CALL HIM “FUN.”
HE WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD,
AND I WAS JUST ELEVEN.
MY FRIENDS THOUGHT I WAS CRAZY,
BUT MY INNOCENCE WAS WON
BY THE BOY WHO INTRODUCED MY HEART TO HEAVEN.
HE WAS THE SMARTEST BOY
IN THE WHOLE SIXTH GRADE,
AND I COULDN’T BELIEVE I’D FOUND HIM.
THOUGH HIS TEETH WERE IN BRACES
AND HIS DOCKERS WERE FRAYED,
I JUST WANTED TO BE AROUND HIM.
THERE ARE MEN WHO MAKE YOU LOSE YOURSELF
OR FILL YOU WITH REGRET,
BUT ADAM WON MY LIFELONG LOVE
BECAUSE HE PLAYED THE CLARINET.
DOO DO DOO. DOO DO DOO…
I WANTED NOTHING MORE
THAN TO SHARE A STAND
WITH THIS PRODIGY OF PERFECTION.
I DREAMT OF AFTERSCHOOL PRACTICE
WITH THE JUNIOR HIGH BAND,
WHERE WE’D SIT IN THE WOODWIND SECTION.
SO I MARCHED INTO THE BAND ROOM
AND BECAME A DEVOTEE.
FOR ADAM WAS MY LIFELONG LOVE,
AND THIS WOULD MAKE HIM NOTICE ME.
DOO DO DOO. DOO DOO DOO…
OH… HOW I PRACTICED.
GOD, DID I SUCK.
ADAM GAVE LESSONS;
I WAS IN LUCK!
ALL THE SCALES HE MADE ME LEARN BY HEART.
I HAD NEVER SEEN HIM LOOK SO CUTE!
I TOLD HIM THAT HIS MUSIC WAS AN ART.
HE TOLD ME THAT HIS GIRLFRIEND PLAYED THE FLUTE.
I WAS THE DUMBEST GIRL
IN THE WHOLE FIFTH GRADE,
AND NOW EVERYONE ELSE HAD SEEN IT.
I ANNOUNCED I’D QUIT THE BAND;
MY DECISION HAD BEEN MADE,
BUT I WISHED THAT I DIDN’T MEAN IT.
FOR THE MUSIC HAD A HOLD ON ME,
MUCH MORE THAN ANY FLING.
I KNEW I’D FOUND MY LIFELONG LOVE,
AND ADAM DIDN’T MEAN A THING.
THE MARCHING BAND WAS NOT FOR ME,
BUT IN THE CHOIR, I COULD SING.
DOO DOO DOO. DOO DOO DOO…
HE WAS THE SMARTEST BOY
IN THE WHOLE SIXTH GRADE.
DB: Tell us a little about the creation of the lyric generally.
GS: A colleague was putting together an evening of love songs for a Valentine's Day concert and he asked if I would write a new song for the occasion; specifically, would I write about the first time I fell in love? I figured everyone would be writing mushy love song ballads and I wanted to find a different way in to the assignment. I wanted there to be a chorus, something fun and "hook-y," and I wanted each verse to reveal a significant change in the way you heard the story. So I started with structure and worked from there.
DB: Was there a rhythm pattern you were looking to achieve in this song? What was the goal of the flow of the text?
GS: The song is about a girl who learns something about herself, and I wanted to be sure the audience learned at the same pace. I wanted it to feel conversational; these ideas are big for a young girl but are still parsed through the way the reflecting grown-up remembers them. I suppose there was a rhythm in the way I wrote the lyric, yes. I often craft music and lyrics at the same time so I'm not always consciously aware of what I'm doing, but the groove of the song is very much "ONE and two AND.. and four and…" so I made sure the words that fell on those beats were always important ones.
He was the SMARTest BOY
In the whole fifth grade
And I COULDn't beLIEVE
I'd found him. (etc.)
I wanted NOTHing MORE…
I was the DUMBest GIRL…
And now EVERYone ELSE…
DB: Thematically, where does the lyric reach its "moment"…meaning, is there a particular line that serves as the heartbeat of the song?
GS: Well, each verse has a different reveal, so each "doo doo chorus" has a different purpose. In the first "doo doo chorus," the singer is remembering the sound of the clarinet, remembering what it felt like to fall in love. It's pure. In the second chorus, she's using the "doo doos" to flirt, to put herself out there in a vulnerable way. In the bridge, she gets shamed, and this is the heartbeat of the story for me – those extra bars of NO LYRIC at the end of the bridge. Maybe the song is about love, and maybe it's about music, but I think it's really about that pivotal moment in a young girl's life when she's been bold enough to ask for what she wants, and the unexpected result embarrasses her so much that she thinks maybe she won't ask again. What a girl does next can affect who she is for the rest of her life. In this case, after a brief moment of thinking about quitting, our heroine realizes she doesn't want this one embarrassment to keep her from the thing that makes her happy. So in the final "doo doo chorus," she combines the intentions of the first two choruses – now she's USING the pure music to give her what she wants – and that's more important than the boy. The music saved her, and that was what falling in love felt like.
DB: If you had the chance to re-write this lyric knowing what you know now, what, if anything, would you do differently?
GS: Not really. I have an alternate version of the lyrics that a boy can sing about a girl, and I've also recorded the song with a boy (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) singing about a boy. I am proud of the way this song has grown for me over the years. My daughter is in the fifth grade right now, and watching her navigate these pre-teen years… Yeah, I continue to think the lyric holds up.
PS. Yes, there really was an Adam, and yes, he is the reason why I learned to play the clarinet.
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