Elton John: I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues

Written by Justine Aronson


In category: Song of the Day

Published May 10, 2017

In the spring of 2012, I got a real bad case of The Blues. I had just finished grad school and felt like I was supposed to be “done” – a perfect, polished adult, with a budding singing career. Objectively, things weren’t too bad. I was living in a nice apartment in Princeton, New Jersey. I had friends, I had a few jobs, and I had the tendency to drink a little too much on occasion, partially owing to the potent combination of mounting internal pressure and the black hole of uncertainty that is the making of a career in singing.

On more than one occasion during this period of time, I listened to Sir Elton John’s “I guess that’s why they call it the blues” on repeat at 2 in the morning.

It was healing then, and it’s healing now. It’s easy and it’s croony and it’s got a kicky bass line. Sir Elton reassuringly tells us at the song’s outset –

“don’t wish it away, don’t look at it like it’s forever”

In more clear-eyed hours, I’m reminded of the fact that we can’t wish away our pain, we can only trust that it won’t be around forever. As evidenced by this song, we can also enjoy a mean harmonica solo and some excellent air-drumming opportunities.


I clearly remember the first time I felt the capital-b-Blues. The Blues for real, depression for real. It was my freshman year of college, and I recall very clinically noticing that the leaves were changing. I grew up in Michigan, and the Midwestern fall colors had historically given me a sharp feeling of sparkly joy and excitement. This time – in a time of change and budding adulthood – I felt nothing. It was alarming.


Last fall I was on a gig in Philadelphia, in a different corner of The Blues. I was alone and lonely in my hotel room, and asked my facebook friends to share their most potent tearjerker songs with me – it ended up taking the form of a massive spotify playlist appropriately tiled “weeping in philly.”<

That night, an acquaintance concerned with my well-being messaged me and asked me if I was okay. It was a caring thing of this person to do, but it feels important to mention here, in my second SOTD post about tearjerkers, that crying in and of itself does not indicate that you are not okay. Sometimes it’s a release valve. A very dear singer friend of mine likes to say “a cry a day keeps the crazy away.” And it just so happens that Sir Elton reminds us to “cry in the night, if it helps.”


I want to mention that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Sometimes when I get The Blues, it feels like falling into a hole. A depressive hole that seems very deep, but only because when I’m in it I don’t have the capacity to look up. It’s dark in there, and hard to see whatever light might surround me. But there is always light, and Sir Elton assures us that “things can only get better.” We can always ask for help – or, as Sondheim put it “No one is alone” (speaking of tearjerkers…). We have the power to speak out about our pain, share it with our loved ones, or if needed, seek professional help. And in the meantime, we can listen to our favorite songs on repeat and have a good cry.

Tomorrow: sehnsucht, meeting cute, and allergic rhinitis

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Justine Aronson, soprano, lives at the intersection of Los Angeles, New York, the Midwest, and her own tender heart. She performs works written by living composers and by dead composers, and endeavors to find the nugget of divine humanity within all of it.


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