… And mine is “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)”. Especially after I took up marathon-running. As a runner, sometimes you come across a hill that’s too steep, a flat that’s too long, a path that’s too rough. You need that track that will make you overcome that hill, beat that flat, win over that path. “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” has that quality. It’s a rocket-powered, piano-riff-rich, bass-hook-driven monster of a song. And on top of everything you have the soaring vocals of the Queen of Soul. Vocals that sing a song of both surrender and love (“You’re a no good heart breaker/You’re a liar and you’re a cheat/And I don’t know why/I let you do these things to me/My friends keep telling me/That you ain’t no good/But oh, they don’t know/That I’d leave you if I could”).
This is a song about flawed humanity. About what we do and the lengths we go to when we love that other person. Even when that other person hurts us so bad. Whereas blues is pain and soul is reaffirmation, “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” is a cross between both genres. It is Aretha doing what she did throughout her entire stellar musical career: combining pleasure and suffering.
It is the reason why, when this song comes on my mp3 player, I get that extra burst of energy. It is the combination of brains, brawn (in the form of Aretha’s emotionality) and voice. It is the piano riffs, the bass line, but above all the chops, the pipes. The thought that she only ever took hold of melodies she could feel. And if she felt them, rest assured, so did you.