10.09-I'VE LOVED HER SO LONG (Neil Young)

Neil Young


She's a victim of her senses.
Do you know her?
Can you see her in the distance
As she tumbles by?
Veteran of a race
that should be over?

        Can you hear her sigh
        With wings to fly?
        She rolls along
        Doing it wrong.

                Oh, I've loved her so long. (2x)

                        There's a place that I know
                        We could go
                        Get away for a while.

                        I can bring her the peace
                        That she needs.
                        Give her reason to smile.

                [Choral break]

                [Refrain (11x)]

Following on the theme of heartbreak in What Did You Do To My Life is I’ve Loved Her So Long, which serves in a Janus-faced manner to emphasize both a length of time and a farewell. [This is the kind of pun that George Harrison had used in his late 1967 Blue Jay Way when he pleaded Don’t be long, and that Paul Simon would use in early 1970 for the song So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright in such lines as I never laughed so long.] Again, Young is writing outside of the usual quatrains, and this time is stacking his four melodies without much instrumental transition. The one break in the song is essentially a small choral interlude in preparation for the return to the refrain. Incidentally, the gospel choir used in this song was one of the first in rock music, though not by much. In December 1968, the Rolling Stones would use a gospel choir also for Salt of the Earth on the album Beggars’ Banquet. By the following year, gospel backup singers for pop records were becoming quite the rage, and have since become rather a mainstay.

Something too must be said of Jack Nitzsche’s production, as he had achieved a great soundscape on Neil Young’s Expecting to Fly for the Buffalo Springfield in 1967. On I’ve Loved Her So Long, his influence is more muted, but it is still apparent. The song begins with a mellow electronic keyboard, and the verses are launched with the single strike to a bell emiting a low note. A woodwind quartet is brought in for the second melody which leads through a soaring violin transition to the choir repeating the one phrase of the refrain. The choir and violins accompany the dreamy fourth melody about a “place we can go”. The break is toned down to woodwinds again and a gentle choir before launching into the full throated chorus with dramatic violin flourishes and a bass guitar accompaniment brought up front. The tone approximates Phil Specter’s “wall of sound” that was still a recording ideal in the late 1960s.