Dan Kelley

She's Not You

On July 17, 1962, Elvis Presley released "She's Not You," a song in which a man realizes that human beings have souls. He goes down a list of attributes that make a woman desirable. He states that his current companion possesses all these traits. Yet he is miserable and confused. Although the girl is "all the things a girl should be" and "everything a man could want," he can't bring himself to love her. And he can't forget about the girl he does love, the one he can't have. Why? Simple: "She's not you." It seems that being with the new girl makes his agony even worse. "It's just breakin' my heart," he sings.

What is breaking his heart? It's not the abandonment. That happened before the start of the song. It's the realization, in the presence of a girl he wants to love, a girl he feels he should be able to love, that he is still in love with the one who left him. It is the realization that one person is not another, that we are not simply lists of characteristics, but unique and mysterious beings, and that love is a more than sharing a malt at the soda fountain. Love is a cause of pain and a difficult thing. Once a heart is broken, it stays that way. Saying that your heart is broken, is, after all, a way of saying that you have seen the cruelty of the world, that you have grown up, that you have lost your naiveté, that you are no longer a child. The singer might love again, but never with the same abandon. He will always hold something in reserve, as a check against the pain of abandonment.

A short eight years later, in 1970, another pop song was released, "Love the One You're With," sung by Stephen Stills. Stills gives advice to Presley: "If you can't be with the one you love...love the one you're with." The meaning of the word "love" has completely changed. Love is no longer a mysterious bond between two souls. Love is a conscious choice. A person is able to love one person, then stop loving that person and love another. But human sentiment is not so easily changed by human will. Love must mean something else here. And the lyrics clear up the confusion: "There's a girl right next to you. And she's just waiting for something to do." Love is not a feeling, or a state of being. Love is an act. It is "something to do."

Elvis is urged by Stephen Stills not only to betray his beloved, but to betray his own heart, to step on his own soul. He is advised to treat women as interchangeable objects that exist for his pleasure. He is told to treat himself as nothing more than a soulless object with no higher function. In effect, he is told to not concern himself with higher things and be happy as an animal. This is the advice Stephen Stills gives to broken-hearted Elvis Presley and every other man in the world who pines for a woman who has left him: Forget, kill your soul, fornicate, and be happy.

In Elvis Presley's world, a man encounters a great mystery, begins to understand himself, and becomes an adult by accepting disappointment. He gains a tragic view of life, which is the mark of a grown man.

In Stephen Stills world, it is unacceptable that a man pines for a woman who is not there. The problem must be solved. Desire must be fulfilled! The solution is to exchange love for sex, to stop feeling and start doing. Simply forsake an absent woman and have sex with a present one, and the self is no longer pining. The heart is no longer broken. This is both cynical and childish. If a broken heart is the mark of an adult, constant gratification is the mark of a spoiled child. Stephen Stills is not broken hearted. He is heartless.


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