A Kinks deep cut finds love in an uncommon name
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In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
The Kinks’ ambitious, flawed 1973 concept album Preservation Act 1 is near the top of pretty much no one’s list of favorites by Ray Davies and Co., but it does contain one great song that happens to be near to my heart, for reasons that should be obvious from my byline. Growing up with a weird, French-y name in a land of Melissas and Marys, I had an acute case of the Borts, resigned to never seeing my name on novelty license plates or, especially, hearing it in a love song. So it was a revelation to discover, in my teen years, that not only was there a love song for Genevieves, but “Sweet Lady Genevieve” is pretty awesome to boot. (Learning later on that there’s a second great Genevieve song, by Eric Bachmann, was just gravy.) But I think the appeal of The Kinks’ song should be apparent to even the non-Genevieves of the world: It’s a bittersweet plea for forgiveness anchored by Davies’ aching vocals and by evocative lyrics (“You’re not the child who smiled so innocently / And I’m not the rogue I used to be”) that are universal, despite the somewhat unusual name at their center. It never fails to make me smile away all my sadness.