THERE ARE CERTAIN groups from the 1970s that were decidedly uncool to like, or at least uncool for guys to like. Bread was one of them. My sister had all of their albums, and I loved them. Listening to The Best of Bread this week, I find myself appreciating them even more as an adult who knows a little bit about the subject matter of their hit songs, which was almost exclusively one thing: love. I loved all love songs back then—the sappy ones, happy ones, sad ones, confusing ones. What did I know?
I knew nothing. And so I had no way of knowing Bread’s love songs were actually a cut above. I just liked them. And I felt something when I heard them…so maybe I did sort of know there was something special going on.
I’ve written before about how most love songs I grew up with put a lot of crazy ideas about love into my impressionable young mind. I’m still digging out from it, but think I’m safe in saying I have a much better understanding about what love is than I did as a tween. God, I hope so.
Bread’s love songs—all of the hits, anyway—are different because they are about real love, love that is about wishing the other person happiness and celebrating the happiness they bring to you. “Make It with You,” their first and only #1 hit, looks at trying to love without grasping after it, knowing it could last or not. It’s the politest “ask” in any love song I can think of.
“Everything I Own” is about showing regret and appreciation of a love lost and sincerely wishing to try again. It’s about giving. “If” is just pure love through and through. These are not crazy love songs; they are about being in it together. Even “Baby I’m-a Want You,” which by its title might appear to be about wanting to possess and get something out of the other person, is different: it’s an admission of insecurity, the singer vulnerable and celebratory of the love he’s being given. Baby has-a done him wonders!
“Diary” takes vulnerability to the point of heartbreak, a sad song that ends on the sublime note of the singer wishing his beloved happiness with another man, the man she truly loves. Wow. Talk about turning away from jealousy! (Granted, he should not have been reading her diary.)
The most profound Bread hit, though, and perhaps the truest love song of the 1970s, is “It Don’t Matter to Me.” The song was also a favorite when I was a kid. This is a way better take on the “if you love somebody, set them free” theme Sting took on a decade and a half later. This isn’t telling someone else what to do (or whatever Sting’s song is about—I can’t really tell). This is personal:
It don’t matter to me
If you take up with someone who’s better than me
‘Cause your happiness is all I want
For you to find
Peace, your peace of mind
The singer loves somebody. He sets them free. He wishes them peace of mind. And he hopes they’ll come back to him in the end, but he has no guarantee of that. That’s love, friends.