but above all this, I wish you love

Helen Brown:

This history is perhaps what gives the song its rare mood of nobility. Songs about the end of relationships are traditionally sung with an agenda. The singer often regrets bad behaviour that’s caused a break up and seeks reconciliation by promising reformation (as in The Jackson Five’s ‘I want You Back’); or threatening suicide (The Police’s ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’); or wants a cheating lover to know how empowered they feel now the relationship has ended (Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’); or wants to vent a little spleen (Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice” or Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry Me a River’). But the singer of ‘I Will Always Love You’ is thinking about the lover – the singee, if you like – who’s been left for his own good. Although the singer acknowledges she will always love him, she acknowledges she’s not what he needs. And so departs taking only her memories and promising she will think of him every step of the way. So it’s a brave song.

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