I Can’t Make You Love Me took eighth place in Mojo’s ranking of the 100 Greatest Songs of All Time. It’s the pinnacle expression of unrequited love. Sans the anger, sans the argument; just the pain, the acceptance, and the inevitable goodbye. It’s so heart wrenching and raw that one needn’t be going through a breakup to feel it. I first felt it’s power as a child, before ever having experienced something comparable. The soaring melody of the chorus paired with the frankness of the lyrics pierced my heart for reasons beyond my comprehension. These days I’ve lived a bit more, and I find myself putting all the pain I’ve ever felt into this tune effortlessly.
This song is also special for me because it’s one of the few my mother has expressly identified as a poignant song for her. I can count on one hand the number of songs she has taken the time to single out, so they stick with me. When I hear this song, I feel for the loss of the singer. When I sing this song, I recall all the dulled pain from relationships past. When I do either the latter or the former, I imagine the parallel experiences my mother and I have had at different times in our lives that draw us in, and I embrace our shared humanity.
This rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is dedicated to and inspired by my mother.