The Chicken Soup for the Soul line of inspirational books is branching out into the music world. In Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story behind the Song, out Nov. 10, dozens of successful songwriters and artists share the personal circumstances behind their hits. Yesterday, the Music Mix exclusively debuted Kanye West’s chapter on 2008’s “Welcome to Heartbreak.” Today, we have Melissa Etheridge’s reflection on 1994’s “Come to My Window”—a song that brings back memories of life on the road, coming out of the closet, and later battling breast cancer. Read on for the full story after the jump.
“COME TO MY WINDOW”
BY MELISSA ETHERIDGE
I wrote most of this song in a hotel room, which is where I did a lot of my writing once I started touring a lot after my first album. The first three albums did fine. I was being played on radio and had a bit of a following. The hip-hop beats were starting around 1990, the time of my third album, I experimented musically with them. So for the fourth album, I was thinking of getting back to my soul—to the roots of rock and roll where I came from.
I was in a relationship at the time that was tumultuous. In my early twenties and thirties I made some poor choices and what you choose is what you get. I was struggling with fidelity, honesty and what it is that makes a relationship.
On the road, as a “rock star,” there’s superficial attention and adulation is thrown at you for a couple of hours—then you’re alone in your room and it’s lonely. I understand why some people turn to drugs.
I started writing in my room (I remember it was nice but can’t remember where it was—Europe or America) after a show.
I had a not so good phone call with my partner at the time, where out of loneliness, I sat on the phone, silent:
I would dial the numbers
Just to listen to your breath
Because of all of the attention I was getting, I felt I needed to do something for someone else. I would sacrifice so many things, put myself through so much pain for this relationship:
You don’t know how much I’d give
Or how much I can take
Just to reach you.
The chorus is a metaphor meaning you can’t come through the front door. I was telling her that we can’t meet and talk in an adult fashion; we have to meet on the side and talk. And I always like a reference to the moon. It conjures up a cold, sweet image.
Come to my window
Crawl inside, wait by the light
Of the moon.
Come to my window
I’ll be home soon.
The last line means that I couldn’t connect with her and I was longing to be home.
My friends were telling me I wasn’t in a good place. They were saying, “Why are you putting up with that?” but I didn’t care what they thought:
I don’t care what they think
I don’t care what they say.
What do they know about this
However, at the same time the album became a hit, I came out publicly. The gay community lifted me up and supported me. That bridge in the song was taken to an anthem level. It bypassed any meaning I ever put in the song and became part of a mass consciousness. It is still a huge moment when I perform it live.
I realized that I was willing to compromise my wants, wishes for someone else. The need was deeper than skin, it was in my blood. I needed to make a connection.
I need you in my blood
I am forsaking all the rest
Just to reach you
Much therapy later, I realized that the hole I felt was for me to fill, but much of our lives we try to have others do that for us. Originally, I was referring to the pain love brings when I used the metaphor “the blackness in my chest.” That’s where I feel my pain, where the heart chakra is. However, ten years later, in 2004, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my current partner asked when I last listened to my records. I couldn’t remember, so while I was undergoing chemotherapy, friends came over and we all listened to every album in the order in which they were released. We listened all the way through and it took about three days because we talked about the songs and each of our memories.
It hit me:
Nothing fills the blackness
That has seeped into my chest
I was sitting there with a huge scar on my chest where they literally removed the blackness from the cancer. I realized how powerful words are. As I craft songs, I have a responsibility. Words and music go beyond lyrics or thoughts—they go straight to the soul.
The cancer changed my life. It showed me the power of intention. We’re all spiritual beings and there has to be a balance of the soul and the body. That is the journey I’m on now.
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