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Song of the Day: Dusty Springfield, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”

A great song penned by the dynamic duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, from whom we’ll be hearing a lot more, I’m sure…

Dusty Springfield, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” (1964) – from Dusty: the Very Best of Dusty Springfield

A really great song, and a great performance. Why aren’t we listening to more Dusty Springfield?

But actually what prompted me to spin this as my “Song of the Day” was the comparison/connection to my earlier discussion of Dar Williams’ “It Happens Every Day.”

This is another song of lost love:

I’m so used to doing everything with you
Planning everything for two
And now that we’re through…
I just don’t know what to do with my time.
I’m so lonesome for you it’s a crime.

She’s crushed. Going to a movie only makes her sad. Parties make her feel as bad. She doesn’t know what to do.

But how different from Dar William’s isolation and loss, as she turns away, in “It Happens Every Day.”

With Dusty, we have a song that is upfront about its loss, pours it out in the words, doesn’t hold anything back. We don’t have to wait until the last line to find out that the “you” is gone. Her lover has gone, she’s lonely and sad and she lets us know all about it.

Unlike Dar, who keeps it hid – who doesn’t speak of it. But as I tried to describe, even if Dar doesn’t say it, the music sings it, all through the song – a thin wire of grief.

In “I Just Don’t Know..,” the music works at cross purposes to Dusty’s broken heart. The horns, the soaring strings, the lush arrangements… Musically, it’s all terrific, but it’s not “D minor, which I always find is really the saddest of all keys, really. I don’t know why, but it makes people weep instantly…”

Why not? Why is a song ostensibly about a breakup, about lost love, so full and lush musically?

I think part of the answer is there in the words. Dusty sings of being “so lonesome for you it’s a crime” and ends by singing “I’m still so crazy for you. / I don’t know what else to do.”

She’s still in love. And in fact even in her broken-up state, her ex still fills her life, love still fills and structures her life. At parties, at the movies, her ex (he or she – who knows? Don’t ask, don’t tell.) is still a presence even in their absence, and Dusty is still in love.

The lost love is really lost in “It Happens Every Day.” It’s gone, just like the you. We don’t even learn of their existence until the last word of the last line of the song. Every day happens without it, and without him or her. And then she turns away…

Dusty is a teenager here, an adolescent –  reveling, really, in the power and poignancy of a broken heart, still crazy in love, and everything about the song tells us that love still shapes her life, still fills it, and another love will come along any minute. The strings will carry Dusty through, carry her to it. “Crazy for you.” Powerful pop.

Dar is a grown women who has lost, and she knows it. She watches the kids, who are not hers, bends to her work, turns away – alone. “Without you.”

I’m a grown man. And a music lover. And as a music lover trying to think critically about music, I can see that in certain ways Dusty Springfield’s recording of “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” is a better song. But as a grown man dealing with loss, “It Happens Every Day” is the one that speaks to me, that I turn away to.

For more…

Filed under: Autobiography, Song of the Day, ,

One Response

  1. […] moving music, and music that seems to me to be speaking of loss. Not the love and heartbreak of Dusty Springfield’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” nor even that of Dar Williams’ more subtle and mature take on those issues in “It […]

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows


is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.


What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

tweeting my mind



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