Jesse D. Leach is the vocalist of Killswitch Engage, Times of Grace and The Empire Shall Fall. He has visited every continent except Antarctica. He is a lover of good music, good food, especially pizza, and good, down-to-earth people. You can follow him on Twitter here and Killswitch Engage here.
Coupled up or not this Valentine’s Day, you’re likely going to need some music — whether you intend to get down or be down. Well, the Talkhouse has you covered. This week, we’re rolling out a collection of love song — and anti-love song — playlists created by those who know love and anti-love songs best: musicians. First up, Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage.
— the editors of the Talkhouse Music
Bad Brains — “I Luv I Jah”
This is one of my favorite Bad Brains songs because of H.R.’s vocal delivery — you can picture him smiling and feeling the love of his god. The song is soulful and mellow. He speaks of feeling like an outcast in society’s eyes, but the love of God sustains him. As simple as the lyrics are, it is a profound song about faith and love, Jah love.
The Band — “Up on Cripple Creek”
I have loved this one since I was a kid. Even way back then, I could hear the magic of it. To me, this is a song about being a gypsy soul. The rambling man on tour finds an escape off the road in this place. It seems as if “Cripple Creek” could be a metaphor for a woman — not a wife or a girlfriend, but a mistress or part-time lover. I really love the line, “I don’t have to speak, she defends me/ A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one.” It’s like you only get a few chapters out of a book with this song — in the best way possible. The lyrics are ambiguous enough to lend freedom of interpretation as to where, what or who “Cripple Creek” may be. I just find a certain fantasy or romance in this song — it speaks to the traveling musician in me.
Tom Waits — “Kiss Me”
This is a beautiful and passionate song: the jazzy blues feel of it, the lonely piano, the warm stand-up bass and Tom’s incomparable burly yet soothing voice. The words “Kiss me like a stranger once again” make me tear up! I think he’s speaking to his wife of many years and pleading with her to just imagine that they’re meeting for the first time all over again. There’s a deeper love in this than simple romance, a complicated love that takes effort and work because it’s long-term.
Peter Tosh — “Legalize It”
This is a love song to ganja (or marijuana if you’re a square, ha ha). Peter speaks of the many uses of the weed. It is political in one regard, since he’s speaking about law. However, you have to have some love for this herb to dedicate a song to the topic. It’s a classic reggae song and, yes Peter, we should legalize it, indeed.
Thrice — “The Weight”
This song is about commitment. Singer-guitarist Dustin Kensrue writes, “And come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind/ Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.” It’s rare to hear a song about the work and hardships of love. Kensrue writes so eloquently about his loyalty to his wife. Being a husband myself and a touring musician myself, this song is an anthem for me. It’s not easy being in a committed relationship and having a gypsy life. It’s all about fighting for love and remaining committed despite the trials and tribulations.
The Sundays — “Wild Horses”
This is an amazing cover of the Rolling Stones’ classic 1971 slow jam. I prefer this version. Harriet Wheeler’s voice is unique and beautiful! There is a longing and a pain in the lyrics of heartache. Athough there is no direct message in this song, it implies so much: the willingness to stay and fight it out, all while acknowledging there is hurt involved. It’s about the bittersweet struggle of love.
Erykah Badu — “Other Side of the Game”
This song was written from the perspective of a girlfriend or wife/mother who is in love with a career criminal. To me, this song was written in the vein of Nina Simone: the abused woman who lives in a perpetual state of not knowing if her man will come home at night. There’s an acknowledgment of her situation being complicated, but she is sticking it out with the hope that it will eventually get better. It’s a complicated love that causes her and her child pain, but she has the strength to endure, come what may.
Sense Field — “Save Yourself”
This song is so unusual lyrically. It’s a song about loving yourself and protecting your heart. Jon Bunch, who recently passed, was a brilliant songwriter. What strikes me most about this song is that it’s written from the point of view of someone who loves another person and wants them to love themselves. It could almost be about a father’s love for his daughter. “Could you save yourself for someone who loves you for you and loves me for me/ or give it away to someone who could cherish your name.”
The Roots — “You Got Me”
The long-distance love between a musician and his lover seems to be a theme for me here. Black Thought writes of jealousy and trust when dealing with love. It’s all too easy to imagine being away from a person you love for several weeks and wondering if they’ve been faithful to you. You have to trust someone, knowing there are times when there is attraction and circumstances that can lead one to stray and be unfaithful. This song is an affirmation of the trust it takes to love while apart.
The Police— “Roxanne”
This is a classic love song — about falling in love with a prostitute. Very few songs touch on this topic. I really love how Sting is pleading for this woman to stop selling her body. It’s a different sort of love than the usual boy-meets-girl, because the girl in this situation is giving herself to many men. But love knows no boundaries and can strike anyone, at any time. This is not your typical love song, and that’s one reason why it’s brilliant.
(Photo credit: Ben Mortimer)