Monday, June 22, 2009

.38 Special -- "Hold on Loosely"

These guys look they would've been fun to hang out with. However, I will still meticulously deconstruct their lyrics, which is kind of the opposite of fun.

Fun fact: .38 Special lead singer Donnie Van Zant is the brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd singer and Florida-born Alabama icon Ronnie Van Zant. A third Van Zant brother, Johnny, who rebelliously decided to spell his rhyming first name with a "y" instead of an "ie," now tours with the reunited Skynyrd. The Van Zants are to Southern rock singers as the Molinas are to major-league-baseball catchers. OK then! Now that everyone has lost interest, let's get started!

You see it all around you / Good lovin' gone bad / And usually it's too late when you realize what you had

Pretty standard stuff about lost love ... nothing to see here. Move along.

And my mind goes back to a girl I left some years ago

Note that Mr. Van Zant here acknowledges that he is the one who left.

Who told me, just hold on loosely, but don't let go / If you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control

There's a lot going on here in the chorus. First of all, holding on loosely without actually letting go seems like a fine line to walk. (As, perhaps, is a relationship?) Clearly, the message is that we shouldn't smother our significant others. This is fine, but I have trouble reconciling this cautionary statement about clinging too tightly with the previous statement that he left. Did he accidentally hold on too loosely and ended up letting go? I'm kind of confused.

Your baby needs someone to believe in / And a whole lot of space to breathe in

Set a shining example for your partner through your actions, while also ignoring her to a large extent. Check.

It's so damn easy, when your feelings are such / To overprotect her, to love her too much ... Don't let her slip away / Sentimental fool / Don't let your heart get in her way

More mixed messages. Overprotection and "lov(ing) her too much" seem like consequences of clinging too tightly, while "let(ting) her slip away" would seemingly happen if one held on too loosely. "Don't let your heart get in her way" could be read any number of different ways. Damn you, Donnie Van Zant! Because you are a certified Rock and Roll Lyricist, I have naturally turned to you for relationship advice and instead have become entangled in some hellish cobweb of contradictory platitudes. I am tempted to tell you that your father, Lonnie Van Zant, never liked you and always preferred your brothers, Ronnie and Johnny.

And now, my impression of Donnie Van Zant teaching his daughter, little Bonnie Van Zant, how to fly a kite.

OK, so the key to flying a kite is to hold on loosely.
BVZ: Thanks, Daddy!
DVZ: Here we go ... no, you're clinging too tightly. Hold on loosely. No, too loose! You're going to let her slip away! No, too tight again!! You're overprotecting the kite and loving it too much! Give it some space to breathe in! What in the Sweet Home Alabama are you ....
Kite: (flies away)

Anyhoo, "Hold on Loosely" is a fantastic song. Try to keep it out of your head. I dare you.


  1. The worst part of this song is the way they crammed the "who told me" words into the melody. Your lyrics don't scan, all right? Go back and rewrite them, don't squeeze in three more words on a rising note like a kid.

  2. dangfromthecitiesJuly 20, 2009 at 11:55 PM

    Air Forbes: I think of the "who told me" part as a sort of sotto voce aside.

    It's my dream that maybe one day .38 Special and Sting will team together to perform this song and his similarly-themed "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free" in a medley.

  3. The kite scenario made me snort out loud. At work. Here in a hushed LIBRARY!

    So thanks for that. (At least I was able to hold on loosely to my bladder control...)

  4. I don't think that Donnie is the singer of this particular .38 Special tune.

  5. This is a Ridiculous site. Relax and enjoy the was the early 80's and was a great easy going time. Let's critique your break down of this song.....Nahhhh not worth it.
    Go easy....southern rock songs are easy going chill songs meant to either tell you things will be alright or party your arse off or make whoopie maybe you should do one of the three! Bad lyrics...???

    posted by Bill B., Massachusetts. Best song ever to be played in my 79 T-topped Firebird in summer of 87 coming home from summer job on a hot summer night thinking of a many young ladies at the time. Great Days and Great song!