Answer Me

This week Spotify offered to tell me what I have missed this year. They had already done all the work for me; there on the home page was a playlist titled Missed Hits. My search for a track-of-the-week would be easy this time – there were bound to be one or two worthy candidates lurking in there somewhere. So a slightly weary Crotchety Man sat down to listen to those 30 tracks expecting to be entertained and, possibly, thrilled by recent releases that had passed me by.

There were some promising names at the top of the list: David Gilmour, Jon Anderson, Steve Howe. Towards the bottom there were artists that were rather less likely to put the sparkle on the Crotchety Christmas tree: Jackson Browne and Savoy Brown, for example, would (surely) be but dull ornaments. In between, artists scattered across the locally approved musical spectrum sat alongside a few unrecognised names. Perhaps, when the presents were unwrapped there would be some nice surprises.

The first few tracks turned out to be pleasant enough, although nothing murmured “how could you have missed this?” in my eager ear. And, as the songs rolled by, unadorned with aural tinsel or festive cheer, a grey cloud of disappointment slowly gathered. Perhaps I was expecting too much from this Year of the Virus. And then, two thirds of the way way through the playlist, came the unexpected gift, the answer to my plea for a track-of-the-week suggestion – a solo jazz piano version of an old standard performed by Keith Jarrett.

Answer Me was written in 1953 by the German songwriters Gerhard Winkler and Fred Rauch. Carl Sigman provided English lyrics, originally asking God why his girl no longer loves him. That version was banned by the BBC for its religious overtones so Sigman rewrote it posing the question directly to his lost love. Personally, I find that more immediate, more personal and more compelling. There are versions of the song by Bryan Ferry, Roy Orbison, Joni Mitchell and many others, but the best selling was the 1954 release by Nat King Cole.

Keith Jarrett’s stripped down arrangement doesn’t need a human voice; the piano speaks of an incomprehensible loss just as sweetly as any vocalist. Listen as it sings these words …

Answer me, oh, my love.
Just what sin have I been guilty of?
Tell me how I came to lose your love.
Please answer me, sweetheart

K.J. has given us a wonderfully expressive performance. It needs neither analysis nor explanation. Perhaps this is what I had missed in 2020.

Keith Jarrett

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