Sophie B. Hawkins #MusicMonday

Monday, June 02, 2014

One of the artists I remember quite distinctly from my childhood is Sophie B. Hawkins. Her song "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" became a huge hit in 1992 and served as an almost elicit backdrop to my childhood. ("Damn" was bad enough to me then, never mind the song's raw sexuality.) It wasn't until I was about middle-school aged that I came to know her as "Sophie B. Hawkins" rather than "the lady who sings 'Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover'".

I remember thinking, even back then, that her name had such a nice quality to it. There are some names and some numbers that have such a beautiful symmetry to them, or roll off the tongue like pudding, and hers it one of them. As a child, I thought the "B." was so mysterious, and made her seem extra intelligent, like an author or academic. She wasn't just Sophie Hawkins, but Sophie B. Hawkins, and what about the hundreds of names the "B" could stand for? (It's "Ballantine," which does nothing to whet the intellectual-ness of her name.)

When I was in junior high on a mid-January night, I settled myself in front of the little television in my parents' room and watched the pilot of "Dawson's Creek." A handful of scenes in, done in a manner so simple and so beautiful that it's forever imprinted in my mind: Sophie B. Hawkins' "As I Lay Me Down" played over a wide shot of the sun beginning to set over water, all pinks and golds and the spectrum between, and a girl sitting alone on a wooden pier.

I had no idea it was the same lady who was behind "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover." For years, I thought it was Donna Lewis, the lady behind "I Love You Always Forever." The songs were so incredibly different in tone, style, vocals, etc. Lyrically, Sophie B. Hawkins has consistently seemed a poet set to music, whether angsty or wispy, always smithing words to fit her story.

The other day when I was listening to the '90s Pop station on Pandora, and "As I Lay Me Down" came on. Though the song was released in 1995, the first image that came to my head, unsurprisingly, was the "Dawson's Creek" scene. And then memories from 1998 came crashing down on me. I'd never really listened closely to the lyrics of "As I Lay Me Down" before, but now I know that Sophie B. Hawkins wrote the song in memory of her late father. It's such a simple song, lyrically, vocally, melodically, and there's something incredibly touching about its simplicity. Lyrically, the song was an ill-fitting choice for the introduction of the Jen Lindley-Dawson Leery storyline, but the mood cast was spot on: soft and gentle, half-child, half-grown, and wondrous. Something like me in 1998.

MTV found the original video to "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" so "erotic" that it was banned, though somehow this was the version I remember seeing in my adolescence. Maybe the Britneys and Christinas brought the video to an acceptable, broadcast-ready level.

Photo: Sophie B. Hawkins' Facebook page

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