Monday, June 3, 2024

What's It All About, Alfie?

This song has been circulating in my brain like an earworm, on and off seemingly forever, but especially lately. "What's it all about, Alfie?" With all the political chaos and myriad varieties of personal life challenges, I'm guessing there are a lot of people wondering the same thing. What's it all about.

The song itself had a specific application in the 1966 film starring Michael Caine in the role of a young, self-centered Londoner whose lifestyle choices make him unhappy. Alfie is basically a womanizer, using women for his own pleasure without emotional involvement. This kind of male appears in a variety of guises in literature and film. I think here of the movie Elegy (Ben Kingsley, Peneope Cruz) or the novel Disgrace by the South African Nobel Prize wnner J.M. Coetzee.

Events eventually force Alfie to question his behavior, loneliness, and priorities, and eventually he begins to question his belief that he should never depend on anyone.

It's good to question one's fundamental beliefs and core values now and then. Our beliefs and values direct our actions. Where did those beliefs come from? I like the way Robert Louis Stevenson puts it: Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”  

So many great lines in this song. What's it all about?

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There are a number of great renditions of this Burt Bachaarach/Larry David song by various female artists. Here is one by Cilla Black that just cuts to the core. The lyrics follow and then four other versions, including Dionne Warwick's, another personal favorite.

What's it all about Alfie?Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all aboutWhen you sort it out, AlfieAre we meant to take more than we giveOr are we meant to be kind?
And if, if only fools are kind, AlfieThen I guess it is wise to be cruelAnd if life belongs only to the strong, AlfieWhat will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there's a heaven aboveAlfie, I know there's something much moreSomething even non-believers can believe in
I believe in love, AlfieWithout true love we just exist, AlfieUntil you find the love you've missedYou're nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you'll find love any day Alfie, Alfie
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