Jamie O. Feb blog – SongNotes: Solamente

Jamie O'Reilly Bio


2024 Song Notes Update
This song – Solamente – remains one of my finest ballads. I’ll sing it at my Roots MidWinter Salon on Feb 25. Woman’s Heart: Exploring Love. Read more here: https://www.jamieoreilly.com/events/2024-02-25/

Jamie O’Reilly

A Note from Jamie
February ENews
Valentine’s Day
, 2022

This month I get back in the saddle with
a house concert Sunday Feb 20 at Judi Heikes’ house.
This is the preview of Tough Broads and Tender Lasses,
part of my new SongBirds Series. I was thinking about resilience,
which led me to ruminating on what inspires and keeps me going
in tough times. The prevailing assertion being I need to sing!
Songs titles just appeared. The program’s an eclectic mix of some of my favorite songs,
and new ones for me.

I’m loving learning two songs the WWII Blitz songstress Vera Lynn, made famous. I’m singing a recipe for Crepes Suzette, to the tune of The Poor People in Paris and Penny Candy, from New Faces of 1952. I’ve written a new SongNotes essay about my song Solamente, the only real heartbreaker in this program, and still a favorite. It’s up to the ballad singer to bring on the tears, doncha know? The February 20th concert is dedicated to my friend Mimi Harris, a lifetime activist and justice seeker, who passed away this month. 

We’ve added a public concert March 24 at Chief O’Neill’s, so save-the-date! 

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all. 
Love Jamie

PS Tickets on the event pages: https://www.jamieoreilly.com/events/

Beneath a white sky
The amaryllis opens 
Its red mouth shouting
-Anne Hills

Song Notes: Solamente
Songs of Resilience

Lyrics by Jamie O’Reilly; Music by Michael Smith
Swimming Deeper album, 2001

Part 1. Coffeehouse Dreams

My heart was broken once. In the big way. In the, can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t look at the moon, take in the sweet smell of pine, or feel the cool of a wood floor beneath me, kind-of-way.  I was really out of it.  My body was a serviceable shell protecting a burrowing heart, waiting out a cruel winter. And the winter was never ending. 

Napping in an empty house, children in school, my mid-day dreams offered no reprieve. Willing a different tomorrow was my desperate objective. I rooted around for answers, signs of hope the love would return, and all would be restored.

“I once believed love was the most important thing,” a television actor whose advice I sought said to me. “Now it’s peace.  If you have peace, you have everything.” 

I grew impatient. I started to move. I began making my rounds as a single person. Restaurants, bars, bookstores, the gym…Hours on the telephone. Taking in advice and kindness from strangers and friends. 

One stop on my regular route was the hippest local coffeeshop, a loud, high-ceilinged second floor extravaganza, with mismatched chairs and odd sized tables, its sizeable, open windows overlooking a noisy avenue. I drank my first cappuccinos there, dressed in black like the locals, and was mistaken once for the rocker Liz Phair.

“Love your music, Ms. Phair.” 

“Thank you,” I replied. 

A quirky over-sincere guy, who became a star on SNL, usually waited on me. His too close for comfort vibe alarmed me, so I often sought instead a family friend who worked there. A playwright who offered comfort and gentle advice with my scone and butter.  A Moleskine always in his backpack, his tiny scrawl rendered long lines and free association on its crowded pages. He was for real. Nothing was off limits for him.

“Write,” he told me. “Write anything.”  

So I took a night school writing class at Northwestern downtown.  I bought a journal and started writing. 

The feminist bookstore displayed the book Women Who Run with the Wolves.  I bought that and other titles; read poetry, parables, self-help books about facing fears, and listened to a Buddhist monk talk about peace.  All promising healing. All assuring me I wasn’t alone. 

Arriving home one day I found a brown paper bag on the stoop. The half-dozen cassettes inside held advice from the latest self-help guru. The enclosed note from a woman friend said:  

“Find something you love more than what you lost. Throw yourself into it. Find your passion.”  

I listened to the tapes on headphones from a Sony walkman, while on the treadmill at the gym.
“Be positive,” was the inflated millionaire guru’s message.

“You have the stomach of an eighteen year old,“ a buff guy one weight machine over said to me one day.  I dropped and broke the Walkman. I lost interest in the guru. 

Part 2. The world will always welcome lovers.

I took water aerobics with a class of women over 65. “I’m learning how to be alone,” I said shakily in the locker room one day to the eldest of them, who then volunteered her story to me.  A widow from a rich Jewish family, she owned a nice home in Lincoln Park, did figure drawing at the Cultural Center downtown, went to the theater, opera and the symphony, ate at good restaurants, and was fiercely independent. 

“The love of my life was an Irish Catholic boy,” she told me. “My parents broke us up when I was 18.  I never saw him again. I married a man they approved of, whom I cared for but didn’t love. Now I like living alone. I like to be with women. You should look to women. You’ll see you’re not alone.”

I saw an ad for belly dance classes on the bulletin board at the coffeeshop, and signed-up. 

“I want to like my hips,” I told the teacher over the phone.
“We love hips,” she said.  I danced for a year before I looked up from the floor, later learning she was also a dance therapist. I belly-danced for over 25 years.

“When trust is broken, we experience trauma. We are disconnected. Not in our body. We look at life from the outside. Don’t feel like we belong in this story. You need a soul retrieval,” my therapist told me.  I had one.

Some mornings after the gym, I stopped at the Starbuck’s at Webster and Halsted. A musician friend held court there as head-barista. His steady gig playing slide guitar at a local bar brought a bevvy of beauties his way. He was in his sexual prime, he told me. Amped up and upfront. 

“Find somebody and have alot of sex,” he said. 

He knew I wasn’t eating much, so he showed up one morning and made me an omelet: two eggs, fresh dill and some exotic cheese, narrating the how-tos as he went about it. I ate it all. 

“The best songs are written when you fall in love. Or fall out of love, when the heart is broken. Write songs,” he told me as he left.

Part 3. That’s a lyric

One spring night I went to the concert of my friends Anne and Michael. Their ballads hit hard that night. After the concert, Michael and I walked around while Anne packed up.  I told him my story, of the sadness and bewilderment.

“What did I do wrong?” I asked.

“It’s not you,” he asserted. “It’s marriage.  Marriage is a hard gig.”

After that we met and talked alot. He brought me mix tapes.  I read sections of my journals to him.

“That’s a lyric,” Michael said one day after I read him a passage. “I can do something with that.”  

I tore out the journal page and gave it to him.  The song became Solamente.  We recorded it in 2001 on Swimming Deeper.  Michael played two guitars and bass.  Solamente was first of our many collaborations.  Listening again 28 years later, I’m proud of it.  I find it even more compelling.  It captures the grief of lost love and offers possibility. 

Some restless nights I go back to those coffee-shops.  I wake up thinking of all the people along the way.  Of simpler times when you could take things like love for granted.  In the too early dark, I feel for the cool floor beneath my bare feet.  Drink my espresso alone at the table.  And suit-up for the adventures ahead.


Solamente is on this album

Lyrics by Jamie O’Reilly; Music by Michael Smith

I left you awhile ago
Between the I’m not sure, and I’m confused
Or was it the way you cried
When our summer turned to winter
Frosted windows.  Icy beds.
Whatever, I sorta left for good,
Left the soul of me that was stitched so tight inside the soul of you

If I could take a journey
I wouldn’t go far away
I’d sit down in a coffeeshop and dream my cares away

If I had a rubber ceiling
In the room that was my heart
Maybe I’d bounce back
But that trobber, mi corazon
Is more a basket weave.
It’s made of wicker, straw.
It only holds the fragile things.
It ain’t equipped for your gumbo of grief
Just can’t hold that  soup
My heart, it has ears and it has eyes.  Hmmm. 

If I could take a journey
I wouldn’t go far away
I’d sit down in a coffeeshop and dream my cares away

I left you awhile ago
In the afterbirth that is this life
Is this life
And it is my life
Mi vida, solamente, mi corazon
If I could take a journey
I wouldn’t go far away
I’d sit down in a coffeeshop and dream my cares away

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