Click on a Theme below to go to a summary of the four posts about that Theme.

Friends, "You've Got a Friend," a song by Carol King sung by James Taylor

Subthemes: Emotions, Physical Touching and Sensing, Connections

“You’ve Got a Friend,” written by Carol King and made famous by the singing of James Taylor, describes with everyday language how good friends respond immediately when they are needed. If your predicament aches for some lovin’ care, soon you will be nursed and revived if you have a stalwart, reliable friend. What else does this song suggest about friendships?

Here it is, sung by an older James Taylor.

When you’re down and troubled
And you need some lovin' care
And nothin', nothin' is goin' right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin'
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

If the sky above you
Grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together
And call my name out loud
Soon you’ll hear me knockin' at your door

You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin', runnin', yeah, yeah
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there, yes, I will

Now, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend
When people can be so cold?
They’ll hurt you, yes, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them
Oh, but don’t you let them

You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin', runnin', yeah, yeah
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there, yes, I will

[closing omitted]

Source: LyricFind

Emotions: James Taylor’s friend immediately responds to the call for help, I’ll be there, yes, I will. He sings calmly, but the warmth of reliable, deep affection glows. Nobody can make it out here by themself and cold people will

hurt you, yes, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them.

Strong friendships go hand in hand with strong emotions. When you care for someone deeply, they know secrets about you that can stab and you can stab back. Anger can be the lava of loving friendships’ magma; it wells up from our core and when white hot it destroys. On the positive side, the depth of feeling can be transporting. We soar on a higher plane around that person: “I like you so very much.” Powerful affect accompanies strong bonds of friendship, much like in marriages. With great friendship comes great responsibility since the price of closeness is vulnerability and loss.

Physical Touching and Sensing: The friend in this song shows up knockin’ at your door and hugs – not for them the pallid brevity of text or email, the delay of a letter, or the sensory-deprivation of a phone call; they stand before you, embracing, in touch with you and your life. Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend. Yes, you can have pen pals and epistolary liaisons (Peter Tchaikovsky and his patron, Nadezhda von Meck would be a notable example). But text messages and emojis don’t consummate relationships, and no one marries based on the blurb of a dating site. To hold someone is to know them.

Friendships build best in person, not when you are alone. Picnics together, concerts, travel, sleepovers, dormitory debates, military service, long walks and talks – those are friendship’s bricks. In “The Big Chill,”" the catalyst for so many revelations was the weekend in sight of each other, in the kitchen, and in each other’s arms.

Connections: A signal characteristic of friends gathered together is a flurry of in-jokes, teasing, shared memories, networks, and sensitivities. Friends share many connections, which they can weave into their conversations and build on continuously with anecdotes, remember-whens and embellished retellings. A web of memories and stories, sometimes legends polished over time, binds a person to their friends. The longer friendships last, the deeper and more entwined become those shared experiences. “Remember the picnic with those weird women….”

 

We care about our close friends, who pitch in at once when needed. They come to us, draw on their history with us, and hold us. Emotions wash over us, both good and bad feelings. This song stresses the support, immediacy, and presence of a friend.

If you are interested in other thoughts on the concept “Friends,” consider other subthemes that don’t fit as directly to the poem, painting, rock song, and movie written about in this series. For an overview, this article explains Themes from Art or click on the navigation bar, “About.”

We invite you to read about other rock songs discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:

comments powered by Disqus