♫ Alone Again (Naturally) ♫ (Redux)

One of the music puns on my Jolly Monday post brought this one to my mind tonight, and I must admit that it suits my mood of late to a ‘T’.

Tonight’s song has been dubbed “one of the most depressing songs ever written”.  Despite that, it is one of the top five on my playlist for when I am walking … it causes me to pick up my pace, for some reason.  I guess it suits my mood of the moment.  This was Irish singer Gilbert O’Sullivan’s only U.S. #1. It sold 2 million copies, spent six weeks at the summit in the U.S., and earned him three Grammy Award nominations (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year). It was the second best-selling single of the year in America behind Don McLean’s American Pie, which I played not too long ago.  It also charted at #1 in Canada and #3 in the UK.

According to O’Sullivan …

“Everyone wants to know if it’s an autobiographical song, based on my father’s early death. Well, the fact of the matter is, I didn’t know my father very well, and he wasn’t a good father anyway. He didn’t treat my mother very well.”

In the first half of the ’70s O’Sullivan enjoyed a succession of hits in the UK, including two #1s that show his considerable range as a songwriter. The first was “Clair,” inspired by Clair Mills, the 3-year-old daughter of his manager Gordon Mills, whom O’Sullivan baby-sat. The second was “Get Down,” which is a plea to his dog to get down off the furniture. O’Sullivan was the first Irish recording artist with two UK #1 hits.  Perhaps I’ll play one or both of them sometime soon!

At the end of the 1980s this was used as the opening theme song and “Get Down” the closing theme song of Masion Ikkoku, a Japanese animated series. They were used without authorization, which caused some controversy at the time. However the net result was that a new Japanese generation discovered Gilbert’s music and his popularity grew in Japan. Some of his 1990s albums have only been released in Japan, where he has continued to enjoy some success.

In 1982 O’Sullivan took his former manager Gordon Mills to court over his original contract, ultimately winning back the master tapes to his recordings as well as the copyrights to his songs. Nine years later in 1991, O’Sullivan went to court again to sue the rapper Biz Markie, who used an unauthorized sample from this song in his track Alone Again, which appeared on Markie’s third album, I Need A Haircut. The judge made a landmark ruling in O’Sullivan’s favor that the rapper’s unauthorized sample was in fact theft. From this point on, artists had to clear samples or be subject to costly lawsuits.

O’Sullivan talked about the case in 2010 at a screening for the movie Out On His Own: Gilbert O’Sullivan. He said Biz Markie’s record company approached him about sampling the song, and O’Sullivan asked to hear it before granting permission.

“Then we discovered that he was a comic rapper,” said Gilbert. “And the one thing I am very guarded about is protecting songs and in particular I’ll go to my grave in defending the song to make sure it is never used in the comic scenario which is offensive to those people who bought it for the right reasons. And so therefore we refused. But being the kind of people that they were, they decided to use it anyway so we had to go to court.”

Alone Again (Naturally)
Gilbert O’Sullivan

In a little while from now
If I’m not feeling any less sour
I promise myself to treat myself
And visit a nearby tower
And climbing to the top will throw myself off
In an effort to make it clear to whoever
What it’s like when you’re shattered
Left standing in the lurch at a church
Where people saying: “My God, that’s tough”
“She stood him up”
“No point in us remaining”
“We may as well go home”
As I did on my own
Alone again, naturally

To think that only yesterday
I was cheerful, bright and gay
Looking forward to who wouldn’t do
The role I was about to play?
But as if to knock me down
Reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch
Cut me into little pieces
Leaving me to doubt
Talk about God in His mercy
Who if He really does exist
Why did He desert me?
In my hour of need
I truly am indeed
Alone again, naturally

It seems to me that there are more hearts
Broken in the world that can’t be mended
Left unattended
What do we do? What do we do?

Alone again, naturally

Looking back over the years
And whatever else that appears
I remember I cried when my father died
Never wishing to hide the tears
And at sixty-five years old
My mother, God rest her soul
Couldn’t understand why the only man
She had ever loved had been taken
Leaving her to start with a heart so badly broken
Despite encouragement from me
No words were ever spoken
And when she passed away
I cried and cried all day
Alone again, naturally
Alone again, naturally

Songwriters: O’sullivan
Alone Again (Naturally) lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management

21 thoughts on “♫ Alone Again (Naturally) ♫ (Redux)

  1. According to an old interview with John Lennon, his favourite song was “Bang A Gong” by T. REX. And his favourite singer was Gilbert O’Sullivan.
    This song was #1 in Canada for a reason: We often feel we are alone against the world, Naturally!

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  2. Your estimate was only slightly out. Add another three digits and you’d be closer – not even in my top 50,000! He always struck me as creepy: a grown man dressed as a 1940s schoolboy, with a whiny little voice. I never understood his popularity.

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