A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Track #35 on Thommy Ford’s Playlist
I declared Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing” my favorite love song in my last music post. I always find it hard to write something like that uncritically, which means that all of a sudden I’ve been thinking a lot about love songs and trying to come up with a list of things I might like more than “Sweet Thing.” What I discovered is that there are a lot of great songs I never really categorized as love songs until I started mulling them over. Case in point: “That’s Where It’s At” by Sam Cooke.
The tricky thing about categorizing “That’s Where It’s At” is that it’s more than a mere love song, it’s a full scale make-out song. Sure, it’s rather chaste by some standards, but that doesn’t change the fact. Here are a couple of the verses:
Lights turned way down low
The music is soft and slow
With someone you love so
That’s where it’s at…
To say it’s time to go
and she says “Yes I know
But stay just one minute more”
That’s where it’s at
Aww, that’s sweet. But like all great pop songs it has just a subtle hint of something less sacharine. It’s basically a three chord song (C, F, and G) until the chorus finally hits. At that point A-minor gets in the mix and gives the song a bitter-sweet feeling that Cooke really milks in his improvisations. It’s beautiful stuff. Cooke’s voice is just perfectly suited to the song. It’s joyful enough, he even occasionally laughs to himself after a phrase, but at the same time he sings in his grittier tone and takes some bluesy runs, adding that slightly melancholy twist. The song’s power ultimately comes from knowing that the kind of puppy love it describes is doomed to end, making that final “one minute more” so precious and romantic.
Review by Matthew