Once chance intervention, see what it can signify
The slightest misapprehension, baby
And we’d have passed each other by
When I heard your sweet voice callin’
Saw your light come shinin’ through
I couldn’t stop my heart from turning
Churnin’ out my love for you, my love to you
Before I met Julie, I was not a Bonnie Raitt fan, primarily because of ignorance. When Raitt won three Grammys for her 1989 comeback record, Nick of Time, a close friend of mine called her “overrated.” Knee deep in college music, I blindly agreed with my friend (you know who you are) and never drew an opinion of my own. I would have continued to disregard Raitt if my life hadn’t changed on August 1, 1992, when Julie and I went on our first date. At that time, Raitt’s “Not the Only One,” from her 1991 Nick of Time follow-up, Luck of the Draw, was getting plenty of exposure on all of the soft rock stations across the land. My boss at the time, Barb, happened to like things on the mellow side, which meant that I was subjected to huge doses of Whitney Houston and Gloria Estefan. I also heard plenty of “Not the Only One” in the summer of ’92. However, that song, with its crisp harmonies and plunky guitar, was pleasant to the ears and kept me from wanting to smash the radio into little pieces. What’s more, Julie liked Bonnie Raitt, so I was more inclined to give the veteran blues singer a chance.
As some of you know (and by my account of that date in a previous entry), our first date was simply wonderful: out to the movies, a couple drinks, some mediocre wings and fantastic conversation. As she dropped me off at home, I asked Julie for a kiss goodnight. That one kiss told me everything I needed to know about this woman, about life, and about the way that love works. I knew I was going to marry her right then and there. Needless to say, this was a little disconcerting, it being one date and one kiss and me only kind of knowing her. But as the weeks passed and the two of us saw each other every single day, I felt that the love was real and that I could not spend the rest of my life without her.
I’ve probably told you I was coming off of a bad breakup that left me reeling. It wasn’t so much that I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with that particular woman, but that the end came so suddenly, like a Band-Aid getting ripped off while you’re not looking. The first half of my summer was a bit cloudy as I endlessly planned how I would make it out to California. I did not want to be in love, yet I feared I would never find love again. Can you believe that? Twenty-two years old and already thinking I’d live my life out as a bachelor. A haze followed me around for weeks, a haze compounded with the sense of obligation to keep things sane in the Malchus home while my dad recovered from open-heart surgery. When I finally decided to start dating again, to live my life while still staying in Ohio, there was only one person I thought of.
It wasn’t just her beautiful smile or the large pools of blue that are her eyes. Julie had a glow of life around her that made me feel good when we were together. She was so positive and life-affirming. How could you not want to spend some time with a woman like that? So, I asked her out, we went on a date, and we fell in love overnight.
It was quick; it was real. It was the universe speaking to me and telling me that I’d found my soul mate. And yet, if I had hesitated and not asked her out, what would have happened? If you listen closely to songwriter Paul Brady’s lyrics in “Not the Only One,” you will know exactly why this song sings to me every time I play it.
Bonnie Raitt remains one of those artists that I just associate with Julie, no matter where I am — whether in the car, at my desk, or wandering aimlessly through the grocery store. I hear her soulful, smoke-tinged voice and immediately think of my better half, especially “Not the Only One.” By Christmas of ’92, Jules and I were engaged, and I gave her Luck of the Draw as a gift. It was then that I finally listened to the song uninterrupted and truly grasped its wonder.
Vocally, Raitt sings with the conviction and depth of a woman who has experienced some hard living and possibly a life filled with a multitude of loneliness. The production, by Raitt and Don Was, is polished and mature, yet still a little rough around the edges thanks to the crack group of musicians who played on the song. Richard Thompson’s guitar playing and James “Hutch” Hutchinson’s slinky bass line are stellar. Ricky Fataar’s drums add just enough crunchiness to keep the track from veering too far into the slick realm of adult contemporary soft rock. And underneath it all, Benmont Tench, the great keyboardist from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, binds the band with his ever subtle piano and Hammond B3 textures. Still, it was Brady’s lyrics that had me shaking my head with a slight smile on my face. Never had a song spoken to me so clearly and tapped into my exact experience.
“Not the Only One” is also the perfect complement to my other favorite song from 1992, “Book of Dreams” by Bruce Springsteen. If that song, from Springsteen’s ode to love and family, Lucky Town, was about where my relationship with Julie was headed, then Raitt’s song bookends our courtship, showing where we came from and how we found each other. Maybe I hadn’t clocked in as many years as Bonnie Raitt or Springsteen when they recorded these two beautiful songs, but I’d experienced enough in my life to distinguish between real love and infatuation. My love for Julie was as real then as it is now.
Sixteen years ago, two people who were practically strangers took a chance and went on a date. Those two people fell in love, and 16 years later, they are married and continue to build a foundation of love and understanding to pass along to their children. Are we perfect? Hell no. But that’s the way love works, friends. I get it, Julie gets it, and we get each other.
And that’s all that matters.