The other day on the car radio I heard an oldie, from 1957, that I’ve always loved: Maybe, by The Chantels. I hadn’t heard it in so long, though, that I’d almost forgotten about it. Despite all of that elapsed time I immediately was hooked and cooked when Arlene Smith, the group’s lead singer, belted out the three descending notes that frame the song’s first word. “May-ay-be,” she cried.
Maybe is a direct and uncomplicated affair, driven by Smith’s heaven-and-earth-moving singing and by soulful piano chords. And its lyrics tell its tale very well, a tale that is fully revealed when, as you are meant to, you read between the lines. A girl knows that she and her boyfriend have reached the end. That there isn’t a whisker of a chance that they’ll get back together. That the day will come when she accepts her fate and moves on. But till then, to ease the pain, wishing and hoping can’t hurt.
Maybe if I pray every night/You’ll come back to me/And maybe if I cry every day/You’ll come back to stay/Oh maybe
Man, what a song. Sing it, Arlene, sing it.
The Chantels’ greatest hit stayed in my head for awhile, triggering a handful of brain cells to fire in a meandering pattern. And consequently I began thinking about how I might turn Maybe into an article for my blog. I mean, there have been worse ideas, haven’t there? And I’m always kind of desperate for subject matter, aren’t I? Well, maybe desperate is too strong a term. On the other hand, maybe it isn’t. Oh wow, there’s that word again. Twice.
Onward I marched to Google, where I poked around to see if there were other songs titled Maybe. Expecting none, I came across 23, and undoubtedly there are any number that I didn’t discover. Kelly Clarkson, K D Lang, Ingrid Michaelson and Split Enz, for instance, each recorded a Maybe that, like The Chantels’ Maybe, is about affairs of the heart. Deciding to pursue that avenue I examined the lyrics of those tunes and shrugged. They were OK but lacked the elemental power of the words to the Maybe that I know and adore. The Chantels’ Maybe, by the way, has a seemingly impossible-to-discover authorship. It is credited to the late Richard Barrett, a musician and music producer who helped The Chantels land a recording contract, but some scribes in cyberland claim it fully or at least partly was penned by Arlene Smith.
The march continued. Surely there was at least one more relationship-oriented Maybe of grand worth. Hey, how about the Maybe from 1926 by composer George Gershwin and his lyricist brother Ira? Those guys are in just about everyone’s pantheon. I began reading Ira’s lyrics to the song and halfway down came upon this couplet:
You will hear — “You hoo”/You’ll be near — “you hoo” . . .
Wait! Stop the lyrics! “You hoo”? Are you kidding me? Tyga, a rapper supreme, could do better, I figured. He too wrote a Maybe. Dig the first four lines:
B – – ch, I’m the sh – t/ B – – ch, I’m the sh – t/Repeat it to yo b – – ch/Tell yo b – – ch I’m the sh – t
Wow, Tyga’s the next Shakespeare, don’t you think? But I’d never be able to untangle Tyga’s complex treatment of male-female dynamics. And so I’d have thrown up my hands in frustration and ended this article right here were it not for the efforts of Allan Flynn and Frank Madden. They wrote a Maybe in 1935, and five years later it was recorded by various talents, most famously by The Ink Spots, who had a big hit with their kinda eerie spin on the tune. I let out a hurrah when I read the lyrics to the Flynn/Madden Maybe. They are good. The story, checking between the lines, shows a heartbroken soul who realizes that his/her relationship with a once-significant other has gone forever kaput. But, as with my favorite Maybe, wishing and hoping can’t hurt.
Maybe you’ll think of me when you are all alone/Maybe the one who is waiting for you will prove untrue/Then what will you do?
Here, then, are YouTube videos of The Chantels’ and The Ink Spots’ recordings of, respectively, Maybe and Maybe. But one final note: Perhaps you’ve enjoyed this article. And if so, possibly you’ll decide to share it (sharing buttons are below the videos).