It’s Music Monday, and we’re three days away from the holiday of love.
I embrace every holiday with the cynicism of knowing Hallmark makes a quick buck off everything (insert holiday here)-related item they sell. Wrapping paper, cards, gift bags, items that have (insert holiday here) emblazoned on them – all of it creates a profit. On Valentine’s Day, the giant stuffed animal is the currency of love. Unless you’re me – I’m just not big on the cliche giant stuffed animal holding a heart.
However, I do like candy and flowers. Especially candy. Especially chocolate candy.
For some, however, Valentine’s Day gets the cynical and down-on-luck treatment. Four years ago, I got out of a relationship right before Valentine’s Day. It was my choosing, and I knew it was the right choice. A year later, I was in a relationship (the one that will lead to marriage in four months!), and I send my valentine a present from 800 miles away. He sent me an equally nice present. These days, we live together and Valentine’s Day is a nice holiday.
Even when I was single, I still loved the holiday. My cynicism is merely an aspect of my personality. I enjoy TV specials (especially cartoons), I listen to love songs, and I love the idea of people being in love. I’m happy when relationships succeed. In years past, I felt slighted by the holiday, but the last time I was single, I was fine with the choice – again, it was my decision and things worked out well for me in the end.
Such is not the case in today’s song, which is one of heartbreak and someone missing the one they love. I still wonder who Donna is, and who was the guy holding her.
And you’ve obviously figured out the title of the song.
“Who’s Holding Donna Now” is 1985 single by family music group DeBarge, the second single from their fourth album, Rhythm of the Night (take a wild guess what the first single from that album was). DeBarge returned to their comfortable standard of ballads following the success of their dance single, “Rhythm of the Night,” and the result was a second consecutive Top 10 hit.
We’ll get into those specifics shortly, but first, embrace the one you love while hitting play.
You can just feel the pain of this song, like someone was personally staked in it.
“Who’s Holding Donna Now” was released in April 1985, and charted at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and topped the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Chart. El DeBarge provides the vocals, with background vocals by non-DeBarge members Richard Page and Steve George. David Foster (he of many a Music Monday) contributed his songwriting talents to the song, along with Jay Graydon (a familiar Foster cohort) and Randy Goodrum. This was the first time the sibling group went outside of their own family unit for songwriters and background vocalists, and it clearly paid off. I can imagine many school dances and proms in the mid-1980s featuring this heartbreaking song.
I also wonder how many of those lovestruck couples made it after dancing to this song. Those crazy kids.
Also of note, “Who’s Holding Donna Now” was featured in a late 1985 episode of All My Children.
David Foster, who lent his songwriting prowess to this ballad (he writes great love and breakup songs, doesn’t he?), also played piano and synthesizers. He later did an all-instrumental (piano, of course) version for his 1991 album Rechordings. I only just heard that album for the first time two weeks ago, which prompted me to include this song in Music Monday. As an instrumental song, it is beautiful, but with vocals, it is beautifully heartbreaking.
I’m sure that’s a thing.
Listen for yourself. Notice the difference?
Are you feeling the love on this Valentine’s Day week yet? It’s ok if you don’t, we’ve got a few days until then.
But for now, have a great Music Monday, and enjoy the music!