CUCKOLDRY IN THE SONGBOOK

The great songs of the 20s/30s/40s/50s mostly have as their subject love. True love, unrequited love, past loves etc. It’s very sweet that this was what the ‘music of the street’ focused on and, if you’re a deep fan of the so-called ‘Great American Songbook’, you’ll know the really great ones (‘Body And Soul’) from the perfectly standard ones (‘Afraid To Dream’) and you’ll know to skip the cheesy bottom-of-the-barrel ones (‘Say Won’t Ya’ Take A Chance On Me, Baby!’). But there’s sub-genre of old love songs that deserves it’s own category. I speak of the Cuckoldry Songs, in which a man discovers his ‘love’ in the arms of another. Hence the above posted song, Bing Crosby’s recording of ‘Two Cigarettes In The Dark’. In this little sit-com a man wanders into a room that is literally lit by only…well, two cigarettes in the dark. The post-coital implications are obvious. But the question that the whole thing raises for me is: why was she willing to have her lover in the matrimonial bed? The answer, I think, lies in the distinction between ‘getting caught’ and ‘wanting to get caught’…and the cuckoldry angle–the purposeful humiliation of the male–is the answer we’re looking for. Though I’ve forgotten the question. Anyway, enjoy Bing and his tearful tale. It’s a very nice record about a very sordid moment…

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