“You”– 1978

Music & Lyric: Tom Snow

Song History: Recorded by Rita Coolidge for the album Love Me Again (1978). It reached #25 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Also recorded by Marcia Hines who had a  #1 hit with it in Australia.

Author’s Note: This was the song that started my career as a “behind the lines” songwriter. Originally written for the first of my two solo albums for Capitol Records, “Taking It All In Stride”, “You” somehow found its way to Rita Coolidge and her producer Booker T. Completely unaware that they had cut the song and that it had achieved hit status in various regions across the country, I ultimately found out by being invited to the 1978 BMI awards dinner to receive a “most performed song” commendation. Who knew? It was never a radio hit in L.A. but apparently places like Cleveland, Philadelphia, Atlanta were crazy about the tune. (My first meaningful royalty check!) More important, it gave me standing in the higher echelon of LA’s songwriting community and provided entry to writers like Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. When I wrote the song I had no concept of “hit” songwriting. I was only trying to come up with viable material for my debut solo album at Capitol Records. While I subsequently had a number of hits that were born of a desire to ride the charts, “You” is, for lack of a better term, an innocent and heartfelt creative effort that happened to achieve commercial success. And, by the way, the word “commercial” has been unfairly maligned throughout the years and never more so than during the post Woodstock era. I remember a successful producer/engineer at the time saying to me, “I hope you don’t start writing hits.” Yeah, well… hits reach people and provide a certain amount of pleasure and escape for the average soul. I’ve always had the greatest respect for those writers who put aside personal idiosyncracy in favor of finding a way to connect to the mass listening audience. It’s an honorable pursuit informed by discipline and craft. If you don’t believe me, ask Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Burt Bacharach, Frank Loesser, and on and on and on…

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2 Responses to “You”
  1. It is a touching and innocent song, as you say. It was a bit hit here in Australia with Marcia, and I’d like to do it with my band. It seems fairly easy to work out myself but I always willing to compensate the original artist if I can. Can’t find any sheet music for it for sale, so maybe it will be back to doing it by ear. It is such a great song every relisten will be a great pleasure. Thanks for this and all the great hits over the years, and there is nothing wrong with being a commercial song writer.

  2. Patrick Foster says:

    I recall that “You” received A/C airplay in Hartford.

    A couple of neat things about this song: in the verses, there’s a full measure between the first word and the second; e.g., “I … can’t remember when I’ve felt this high;” “I … sittin’ back and watching my life go by.”

    In the first two verses, this isolates the word “I” like its counterpoint “You” is set apart in the chorus. Clever and understated.

    It also seems rare to have a monosyllabic title lyric. I wonder whether this is because it’s harder to the listener to identify that one word without a few others around it. (“When you play it, say it” wasn’t always observed by the DJs I listened to!)

    And I love the progression, as the breakdown segues into the third verse: D# > G#, C# > F#. Even though this part has a “building-up” feel (it is, to me, the climax), the chords move _down_: D# > G# is followed up by the same pattern a step lower.

    The arranging and production of the Rita Coolidge version is also very cool. I’m pretty sure that Rita Coolidge doing a disco—A/C hybrid in 1977 was as daring as a hip-hop infected Céline Dion tune would’ve been twenty years later!


    P.S. in terms of commercialism: I can agree that some hits sound like crass attempts to capitalize on some social phenomenon (or similarly, they are near-copies of contemporary hits). I’m pretty sure these don’t get much recurrent airplay, nor does it seem that writers who make this their specialty would be respected much. The point about idiosyncrasies is interesting also. If “behind the lines” means writing a song in the hopes that someone else will record it, then inserting your own “trademark” idiosyncrasies seems counterproductive to those hopes! But when a performer writes his or her own material, it can work—I’m thinking of Prince and Paul McCartney.

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