One of my favorite singers, Corinne Bailey Rae, has finally come out with a new album and I can't stop listening to it.
"It happened to me. It could happen to anyone at any time"
Almost two years ago she tragically lost her husband who died of a drug overdose. She went on hiatus soon after and it wasn't certain if she would ever come back.
The entire album is a lament to her late husband. One of the songs she wrote around that time was called I'd Do it All Again. It was written after an argument with her husband, Jason Rae, a gifted jazz musician who often played saxophone in her band. It was a testimony to the strength of her love for him, a song about how nothing, not his restlessness or the occasional rows it precipitated, could ever make her question that love.
I'd Do it All Again begins: "Oh, you're searching for something I know won't make you happy/Oh, you're thirsting for something I know won't make you happy…". It sounds now like a plea, a calling-out to someone to accept the life they have been given. "I just wanted him to be content," she says.
"It was written literally just after me and Jason had this massive disagreement, a big argument, a bad one," she says now, faltering. "Almost as he was leaving the room, I just sat down and wrote it. It's just about how I felt about him at that time. Even right in the middle of the worst times, I remember thinking that I would choose this exact life again, that I would do it all again. It was me saying, I'm not wishing myself out of this situation. I'm 100% committed to this person. I don't have any regrets about this relationship even though there are all these difficult times."
After his death, Corinne descended into the kind of raw, bottomless grief that Joan Didion describes so unflinchingly in her memoir. For a long time, she continued to refer to her late husband in the present tense, seemingly unable to grasp that he was gone for ever. About three months after his death, she tried to record some of the songs she had written, even turning up at a studio to meet a producer. "I laugh now at how deluded I was," she says. "I felt like everything would somehow go back to normal if I got on with things but, in reality, I was still in shock."
Then came the strange inertia that grief instills in those left behind, the long, terrible numbness that is, in itself, a kind of death. "I didn't do anything for a year. I mean, nothing," she says, still sounding as if she can barely believe it. "Everyone was asking, 'What have you done?' But I had nothing to show them. I didn't go anywhere. I didn't write anything. I didn't work. I sat at my kitchen table for a whole year, people came and people went, life drifted by. It was just bleak. Bleak."
"You find out there's a lot of beauty and grace even in the darkness. In the way people treat you, in nature, in the things you maybe took for granted. There is something miraculous that pushes you along, makes you keep going, makes you carry on. It's really about the mystery of that. In fact, the whole album is about that in a way; it's about loss but it's also about hope, about keeping going and trying to find that beauty."