Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

She Ain’t Gonna Set the Captain Free

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

This week’s Free Ride* muses on the career of Daryl Dragon, aka the Captain, who turns 69 today. Who would have thunk that a keyboardist for the Beach Boys and a background singer for Pink Floyd would have paired up to provide the mid-70s with the epitome of campy and cheesy pop music? But I’ll confess here an affinity for the Captain and Tenille, if only for sheer nostalgia. Their music evokes such memories and images. I think that other than Slingblade, my favorite Billy Bob Thornton performance comes in Pushing Tin, where he and Cate Blanchett sing a duet of Muskrat Love at a piano bar, with Angelina Jolie wrapping herself around the deadpan-delivering Billy Bob. For the freedom theme, we have to turn no farther than the duo’s signature song, Love Will Keep Us Together, which earned a Grammy for record of the year in 1976 and earned a place (#56) on AOL Radio’s 100 Worst Songs Ever. Matthew Wilkening, compiler of said list, writes that Thirty-five years on, love has kept them together. The rest of us can stand united by our mutual dislike of this song. Ouch. How can he write such a thing about these Neil Sedaka lyrics, set to the Captain’s bouncy keyboard work and Toni Tenille’s equally bouncy vocals:

You, you belong to me now
Ain’t gonna set you free now

When those girls start

hanging around

talking me down

Hear with your heart

and you won’t hear a sound

Just stop, (stop)

’cause I really love you

Stop, I’ll be thinking of you

Look in my heart and let love

keep us together, whatever.

I love that they end that chorus with a whatever. There has to be a self-conscious playfulness when you’re writing and performing for the top 40, and you really have genuine talent, as these two obviously did (I’m guessing that the Beach Boys and Pink Floyd are good judges of talent). But as playful and as corny as the song sounds, the line ain’t gonna set you free now does speak to an important dimension of freedom, namely, the relinquishing of at least some aspect of freedom when one decides to be in a lifelong, committed, faithful relationship, that is, when one belongs to another. I suspect that something along these lines must have been the subject of Cecil Sherman’s sermon at First Baptist, Asheville, when he had an old buddy of mine, Jeff Collins*, play this song for the special music in that spring of our ninth grade year, 1976. Now there’s nothing unusual about Jeff playing piano in church, as he’s gone on to be nothing short of legendary in the field of gospel music. But to picture young Jeff tickling the ivories a la Daryl Dragon, with Cecil Sherman sitting on stage tapping his foot, brings a big smile to my face. I suspect the Captain, as well as Tenille, and maybe even Billy Bob, might even give an Amen to that worship imagery. Or a Whatever.

*Note the resemblance of Jeff and Vickie to Daryl and Toni. He just needs a Captain’s hat).

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