What good is the dawn That grows into day The sunset at night Or living this way For I have the warmth of the sun Within me at night The love of my life She left me one day I cried when she said "I don't feel the same way" Still I have the warmth of the sun Within me tonight I'll dreams of her arms And though they're not real Just like she's still there The way that I feel I loved like the warmth of the sun It won't ever die (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
I am no musician, I cannot explain why the aching melody moves me each time. Yet I will know that I will succumb each time to the wordless refrain that opens that song. It brings to me images of the sun beating down on me while I look at the beauty around me and yet regret the what could have been in my life.
Just as one starts to get hypnotized. Brian Wilson starts singing in a voice which combines the purity of angels, with the resigned anguish of a man faced with an unthinkable loss.
The lyric seems simple, maybe some would dismiss it as high school sentimentality, but in the context of the sheer beauty and feelings that the music invokes, there is so much meaning, maybe not all intended by the authors, that take the whole song well beyond a simple bemoaning of lost love. There is the immediate acknowledgement "what good is the dawn that grows into day", that despite the sheer beauty around us, the deepest feelings are within. The cyclical nature of things is acknowledged as the singer looks at "the sunset at night." Finally there is the cry of despair "(what good) is living this way."
But then there is sustenance, brought on by the whispering bells, a sound of magic in the darkest hour. "For I have the warmth of the sun within me tonight." Where is this sustenance, this peace in the lonely dark hours. What consolation for a nation shattered into facing it's worst nightmare. What peace for a person who last the one their built their lives behind. Could it be the happy memories of the past? The wonders of nature? The sense of hope which may seem irrational but that has sustained us all through our worst spells? Or is it a sense of God, where the Christian could easily change the wording to the Warmth of the Son, and where all religions see their God in the sense of the sun, a figure of light and intensity.
"I cried when she said I don't feel the same way." The temporal nature of love and the insecurities related to this is a key theme of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boy's work and it comes through here. Yet again in the midst of the tears that sustenance comes. "still I have the warmth of the sun."
And then again the memories "I'll dream of her arms , and though they're not real, just like she's still there." Memories of the loved one, of the good times, of the late president maybe . There is a sense here that the loss hasn't been accepted, that the past is a happier place to live in. Finally the singer simply says "the way that I feel.", again knowing that there are no words to fully describe these emotions, in the same sense that Paddy Mc Aloon of Prefab Sprout in another song of genius cried "words are just trains, for going past what really has no name."
Then he cries "I loved like the warmth of the sun, it won't ever die." The permanence and spirituality of true love is invoked , the sense that love will last beyond the end of the relationship and maybe beyond the grave. Maybe that singer has a rich well of love sustained by his life-force and that some day, he will love again.
And then the wordless refrain on the fade..I think of the endless waves crashing against the shore on the Cape beaches. I think of the high mountains, of the rich gardens, of those that I loved and wished I was closer to, of hope for the future.
For a while there are no regrets, just a sense of peace.