I’m driving to work when the beat of a favourite song comes pouring out from the airwaves. Surprisingly I struggle to place it and then the words, and the words, are familiar, so so familiar, I’ve been listening to them since my teens, since the 1980s. “At the age of thirty-seven she realised she’d never/ Ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair…” The song is going to end sadly, as we know it must: “The evening sun touched gently on the eyes of Lucy Jordan/ On the roof top where she climbed when all the laughter grew too loud.”
There’s more cause for suicide than simply loud laughter, of course, but the detail is in the poetry, the lyrics, the underlying beat. We weep and sing along as we hear the song, one touched in orange colours and white cars. She’s done it, she’s finally riding the streets of Paris with the warm wind in her hair…It’s romantic, it’s beautiful, and because of all that it’s also achingly sad. The song touches, haunts, remains popular. Whichever way you read the song – and Faithfull has said she didn’t intend it as a suicide ballad – the echoes of the end are unmistakeably there. And it’s a song that has always appealed with its desperate, quiet beauty. The unbelievableness of it all. Suicide made beautiful. The words are, of course, sacrilegious.
For me, there are other hauntings, other obsessions. Plath, Sexton, Jonker…the female “suicide poets”... Read more here