I have found a new niche with literary music posts. After my last post concerning the relationship between “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay” and The Great Gatsby, I received a challenge in a comment to try linking the American class Moby Dick to a song. Challenge accepted and hopefully met. Let’s delve into the pertinaciousness of Captain Ahab.
I use the word pertinacious for good reason. I am convinced Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, was obsessed with this word. Pertinacious is a relentless tenaciousness towards a particular action. This word does fit like a new pair of sweatpants, as Captain Ahab was the model of pertinacity. If you have not had a chance to explore Moby Dick, the expansive novel tells the story of an obsessive quest to hunt the whale Moby Dick. And, yes, while this premise might not sound overwhelmingly fascinating, there are many literary reasons why the book is considered the greatest American novel. So, I do suggest you pick it up and delve into Melville’s eloquent depiction of whaling and obsession. It is that obsession or pertinacity that guides this post; because, when I think of obsession in music, one song immediately comes to mind.
Ranked 84 on Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs of all time, The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” is NOT a love song. Sting, the uber-talented leader of The Police, acknowledges that the song sounds like a love song but is a song about obsession, and considering Moby Dick is perhaps the greatest novel written about relentless pertinacity I might as well link it with perhaps the greatest song written about the same topic. Sting wrote this song in between relationships, a bit of a creative response to the bad press he had been receiving. So, the oft-misinterpreted song about frightening possession was born.
One particular lyric that serves the comparison well is Sting’s proclamation “Oh can’t you see, You belong to me?” In Moby Dick, Captain Ahab cries “I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up.” In this, Ahab is conveying that he will chase Moby Dick to hell before he gives him up. There is certainly a sense of ownership Ahab feels towards Moby Dick, as possession – or the illusion of possession – is often the basis of obstinate obsession.
Captain Ahab and Sting. One obsessed with a whale and the other with a love interest. What do you think? Is it too much of a stretch? Let me know with a comment below.