The single greatest song of the 1960s is still a topic for discussion half a century later, which I guess attests to its greatness:
My friend picked "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys 4 her wedding song. Why would u pick a song that starts "I may not always love you"?
— Riki Lindhome (@rikilindhome) January 14, 2010
Which is not an unreasonable thing to think:
When I was younger, I loved that song. I hoped that some day I would have someone in my life who would love me like that, where I was essentially the whole world to him, and to have that kind of meaning in someone’s life.
As I got a little older, and learned more about humanity, I realized how absolutely rare that kind of love is … and that it was probably something I’d never get to have (and with each year that passes, it becomes less likely).
I realized this morning (after a chain of clicking made me listen to it again) that it would be kind of exhausting for me now to have someone who depended on me so much that he could literally not imagine how he’d live without me there … and yeah, maybe that level of dependence is a little creepy, I don’t know, if you take it literally.
I get that the song is really late-teen/early-20s romanticism talking, but a grown-up person needs to depend on themselves and not be so welded to another person that they cannot envision life without them.
As it happens, I’ve already addressed this issue:
[A]s the Boys noted two songs later on Pet Sounds, “Love is here today and it’s gone tomorrow / It’s here and gone so fast.”
But lyricist Tony Asher knew what he was doing with that opening line. It’s that old perception-versus-reality thing again: you might want to question my devotion at some point, but ultimately “I’ll make you so sure about it.” And really, have you ever seen a couple this side of Darby and Joan who didn’t occasionally have their differences? “The couples cling and claw and drown in love’s debris,” noted Carly Simon (and/or Jacob Brackman) several years later. But still they cling.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a song from the Seventies answered a call from the Sixties. And despite their almost total absence from most of my own existence, I will always believe in hearts and flowers.