John Sieger
Sieger on Songs

“The Windows Of The World”

Dionne Warwick’s memorable version of the Bacharach and David song is the perfect theme song for a troubled world.

By - Aug 28th, 2014 01:59 pm
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The news lately is an unavoidable source of constant distress.

ISIS is in Iraq and Iran, acting as if there is Nobel prize for brutality. Putin is doing his best imitation of his his hero, Stalin. And Israel and Palestine seem to see every problem as solvable with rockets. At home there’s no need to import despair, we seem to be generating a surplus here.

Despite the Supreme Court’s insistence that racism is a thing of the past, the evidence streaming from all the news portals makes it obvious the time to do away with voting rights laws is a long way off. Look no further than Ferguson where another young black man was erased from the voting polls in the most extreme way and you get a reading of where race relations stand at the moment. It’s been about 50 years since Sam Cooke sang A Change Is Gonna Come — and it might be another fifty before it fully arrives.

A lot of artists choose to write songs of social consciousness and I think their intentions are commendable. The more affluent and influential ones even donate some or all of their profits to their cause du jour and hope the message somehow spreads. But still… Fergusons happen. More songs will be inspired by this latest incident. Some will be good and some less so. But it’s dark and rainy right now as I write this and as much as I wish a song could change the world and inspire a moral revolution, I have yet to see proof.

Dionne Warwick by Warren Allen

Dionne Warwick by Warren Allen

If any song might of, it would have been A Change is Gonna Come. Sam Cooke’s version and Aretha Franklin’s later cover both provoke thought and inspire hope. But I’m not hopeful right now and so, instead, I’m remembering a song by a team some consider the creators of inconsequential soft-rock and others see as some kind of uniques geniuses. I’m in the second group. The song is The Windows Of The World, by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. As sung by their greatest interpreter, Dionne Warwick, it captures something beautiful and sad in equal measure.

The winning combination of Bacharach’s quirky complexity and David’s disarming simplicity made for dozens of chart-topping works that come as close to perfection as we get. Bacharach is a schooled and savvy writer, pushing melody to the front, surrounding it with well-fitted arrangements influenced by jazz and evoking an American take on the quietude of Brazilian Bossa Nova. On this song he dialed back his more experimental side to reveal the warm sentiment that was always part of the duo’s style. Nobody does minor keys like Bacharach; this song is stamped with his and David’s unique melancholy and a fatalism that is spelled out perfectly in the words:

The Windows Of The World

The windows of the world are covered with rain
Where is the sunshine we once knew
Everybody knows when little children play
They need a sunny day to grow straight and tall
Let the sun shine through

The windows of the world are covered with rain
When will those black skies turn to blue
Everybody knows when boys grow into men
They start to wonder when their country will call
Let the sun shine through

The windows of the world are covered with rain
What is the whole world coming to
Everybody knows when men can not be friends
Their quarrel often ends where some have to die
Let the sun shine through

The windows of the world are covered with rain
There must be something we can do
Everybody knows whenever rain appears
It’s really angel tears
How long must they cry
Let the sun shine through

© Hal David, Burt F. Bacharach
Music Sales Corp. O.B.O. New Hidden Valley Music Co., Casa David Music

These lyrics are not what most would call poetry; they could easily be dismissed as cliched. But they’re not meant to be read — they are for the ears and, more importantly, the heart. There is a lot of craft that is hidden in these four verses. The first doesn’t reveal any rhyme at all! You wonder if David’s being lazy until the second and fourth line of the second verse. He is playing with the form, stretching ABAB rhyme scheme across two verses. Three and four do the same thing. The fact that I never noticed this before is a reflection of how well the song is written and performed.

Warwicke is a great singer who suffers from the same fate more sophisticated black artists encounter. When they go “uptown” (and this is the ultimate uptown team she’s on), they are perceived as somehow less authentic. But on a scale of Muddy Waters to Ms. Warwick, I’ll take them all. The beautiful ache and restraint in her delivery is part of what makes this elegant voice the definitive one for this catalogue. Her intonation is always perfect and her diction lovely and relaxed, as is her sense of swing. Some people might enjoy seeing or hearing more effort, but the zen-like calm she exudes is anything but easy.

The fact that she is a black woman singing with such resignation about universal strife is notable, but this isn’t a black thing — it’s a human thing. Listening to it, we gaze at the endless sad parade of human events, one that will likely march on after we’re all gone. This song isn’t a cry for battle, but more an echo of the sobs of despair heard too often in our troubled world. It could be the theme music on the evening news.

0 thoughts on “Sieger on Songs: “The Windows Of The World””

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dionne Warwick’s lovely voice certainly does turn these lyrics into sound poetry (as you wrote, meant for the ears)! And there’s a contemplative and relfective feel to the song that’s unusual and unexpected, though still infused with drama and energy.

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