Soul Love

Originally Performed ByDavid Bowie
Original AlbumThe Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
MusicDavid Bowie
Lyrics ByDavid Bowie
VocalsPage McConnell
Phish Debut2016-10-31
Last Played2016-10-31
Current Gap236
Recommended Versions2016-10-31
HistorianAndrew Rottner (EdwardGRobinson)
Last Update2017-05-08


Played by Bowie only twice on the 1973  Ziggy Stardust Tour, “Soul Love” was featured heavily on the Low / Heroes” Tour in 1978, and again sporadically on 1983's Serious Moonlight Tour in support of Let's Dance. A beautiful song from a seminal record, “Soul Love” features Bowie on vocals, acoustic guitar and alto sax (because what can't David Bowie do, right?). “Soul Love” is a bleak but beautiful reflection on the implacable and often brutal nature of love itself.

“Soul Love” features three scenes, each presenting a different facet of human love and the consequences for those involved. Bowie terms these forms as Stone Love, New Love, & Soul Love. Interestingly, the characters in each scene come to discover their new and challenging relationships to love through the medium of human language. The often cruel juxtaposition of "words" to "love" provides the central theme of Soul Love.

Parental/Maternal love (Stone Love) is presented as a mother kneeling before the grave of her son who "gave his life to save the slogans." In this case language literally "hovers between the headstone and her eyes" forming an actual barrier between herself and her son. 

Romantic/Sexual love (New Love) appears as a force so intimate and powerful that for those so affected it literally "tears their hearts." For our young lovers, the strength and intimacy of this new bond is manifested as "new words that only they can share in." In this case, the same force that bonds the lovers together acts to isolate them from the body of humanity proper.

Religious/Spiritual love (Soul Love), is touted as a universal force by a priest who can "taste the word." The priest's words, however, far from revealing any actual universal truth, are simply part of the process by which the narrator's "loneliness evolves." 

In the chorus we find the destructive aspects of love most succinctly expressed with the lines "Love is careless in its choosing / sweeping over cross and baby / Idiot love will spark the fusion." Whether separated from the object of one's love (Stone Love), isolated from all others by one's love (New Love), or deceived as to the essential nature of love itself by the paid brokers of universal truth (Soul Love); the pursuer of love opens themselves up to pain, despair, and ultimate destruction.

“Soul Love” concludes with the enigmatic assertion that "All I have is my love of love / and love is not loving." This could be read as an aside to the famous line from James Joyce's Ulysses  that "Love loves to love love." Perhaps the greatest work of modernist literature, Ulysses is an umbrella so wide that even one as transcendent as David Bowie could not hope to escape its shadow. As T.S. Eliot noted of Ulysses "The next generation is responsible for its own soul; a man of genius is responsible to his peers, not to a studio full of uneducated and undisciplined coxcombs."

It seems unlikely that “Soul Love” will find a regular home in the Phish's live rotation. Those of us who were not fortunate enough to be at Halloween 2016 can always hope for a reemergence of the song somewhere in the bright and limitless future.

”Soul Love” 10/31/16 Las Vegas, NV

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