During Freshman orientation week, I heard the Pitchforks sing a song that was so beautiful that I spent the rest of my life looking for the sheet music. When I eventually found a copy with piano accompaniment, I begged my friend to sing it in his barbershop quartet. I wanted to hear it again.
Last week I found the lyrics and chords for ukulele and was thrilled that our ukulele club leader divided us in half to sing “Only You” in two-part harmony.Today I found a vocal arrangement for four-part harmony in F major. The solo voice with piano accompaniment is in A major. The ukulele lyric sheet is in G major. It will be my next task to consider them all and make an arrangement in a key with chords that are easy to play for ukulele and in a range that’s comfortable for most people to sing.
Why does this song have special meaning?
I was as far away from home as I could be. Durham, North Carolina was nothing like the sub-tropical island where I had spent the previous 11 years. People dressed differently. They spoke slowly with southern accents. They drove cars I had never seen on Okinawa: Porche, Mercedes, BMW.
I didn’t know what to expect for the next four years.
It was autumn 1982, I had just finished a week of orientation with AB Duke Scholars, which left me with a big question mark. Why did they choose me? What did I do to deserve a full scholarship?
Amidst all the uncertainty, I heard a song sung without accompaniment by young men who wooed the audience with promise and longing. Their voices melted together like velvet. They sang of a love and certainty that I had left behind.
Over the years, I would ask if anyone had heard of “Only You” and most people would answer, yes — and hum “Only you can make this world seem right” and I’d shake my head.
“That’s not the one,” I’d protest. “It goes like this, ….” And they’d shake their heads. It was as though no one in America had heard of the song.
Eventually I discovered that the song was written by an English musician and songwriter Vince Clarke who formed Yazoo with the English singer Alison Moyet. Perhaps that’s why my ukulele group in London embraced it so warmly last Tuesday.
Why did The Pitchforks, the Duke barbershop quartet, choose this song? It was Yazoo’s first single, released in March 1982 and hit number two in the UK charts the same year.