When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies
Don't you want somebody to love?
Don't you need somebody to love?
Wouldn't you love somebody to love?
You better find somebody to love.
When the garden flowers they are dead
And your mind, your mind, is so full of bread
Your eyes, I say your eyes may look like his
But in your head baby I'm afraid you don't know where it is.
Tears are running, they're all running down your breast
And your friends baby they treat you like a guest.
When people with memory of the Summer of Love recall songs of that season, Somebody to Love is surely among the top picks to signify that time. [Among other candidates would the Airplane’s White Rabbit, the Doors' Light My Fire, the Beatles' All You Need is Love, Procul Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale, and maybe Scott McKenzie's San Francisco (Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair).] As pointed out earlier, the album on which Somebody to Love was a cut, Surrealistic Pillow, was released a couple of months before the single started to climb in the charts. By the end of May, the song was in the Top 5 of the radio charts, and signified the beginnings of a new and exciting spirit, just preceding the release of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was the official kickoff of the Summer of Love. Light My Fire had been released on the first Doors' album even earlier than Somebody to Love, but did not rise in the charts (in its shortened version) until June 1967.
As Somebody to Love introduced most of the listening public to the strong keening voice of Grace Slick, the only woman to gain wide celebrity in the psychedelic form, the record was an attention grabber. Also, Jorma Kaukonen's lead guitar improvisation in the coda of Somebody to Love was the first time anything like that had been heard on the radio, though it was a refinement of work by Jim McGuinn (Eight Miles High) and Jeff Beck (Happenings Ten Years Time Ago). Sales of Surrealistic Pillow immediately went up, so that it became one of the most influential Summer of Love albums. [Other candidates would be the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, of course, Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn—in retrospect, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced.]
The message in the music is similar to the Beatles' All You Need is Love, that love is the most important thing in life. Arranged simply around rhymed couplets and a chorus, the song nonetheless carried some striking poetic imagery. It is written in the second person, as a matter of advice to a friend, reminiscent of the Beatles' She Loves You. The "bread" Slick sings of is money, which the lyrics argue is contrary both to love and life. There’s an echo of Dylan's Ballad of the Thin Man in the lyric in your head baby I’m afraid you don’t know where it is. And the final verse differentiates between being a comfortable friend, where one can be oneself, and being a "guest", on one’s best behavior. When you’re down, Grace warns, being a "guest" is like being at an arm’s distance rather than within a consoling embrace.