Lauryn Hill and me

I’m torn. I don’t believe anyone in the last ten years in any spheres has ever had the same depth of wisdom that Lauryn Hill put into her songwriting but then I contrast the truth, beauty and clarity of her words with the undoubted inner hurt and hatred of her behaviour over the last ten years.

Ask me for my favourite musician and I still say Lauryn Hill even seven years after finding her and ten since she’s been out there, however rooted in the past that seems to make me. That’s even though she released only one album and then that was the end, she burnt out and immediately became irrelevant. And, that’s despite that while twenty-five percent of her songs will move me incredibly both musically and lyrically, I think the other seventy-five percent stinks to high heaven.

I believe that she is a genius. I believe that she is a genius in a poetical way, and a theoretical emotional genius, but one who is terribly flawed because of the genius’ frustration that comes from dealing with uninspired people who don’t have the same genius as herself. I think some of her music has come from that place where the greatest of creative work has come from, from the nothingness, not written by her per se but through her: a religious person would say it comes directly from above and she was a conduit.

I think Lauryn Hill is more than anything the story of a person who got broken. “Some things hurt us so deeply that we never heal from them,” was what someone had to say about her after she closed up shop and withdrew from the world. Evidently she got hurt too badly by Wyclef Jean, but I also wonder if she had that much sensitivity, if she looked around at a world in decay that she tried fixing with her words, and suffered from the malevolence that greeted her at every turn and from her inability to alter the world despite seeing and knowing what was wrong with it. I suspect that she couldn’t take the evilness of the world anymore, she broke, and she was never able to face it again. It turned her spirit bitter and then she started treating people terribly. Then in the time she spent away from the world she lost her sense of reality.

She gave an interview for a mag in 2005. The publication, Trace, told of how she pulled a bunch of diva-ish shit on them, arriving hours late without smiles or contrition and making everyone call her Ms. Hill (including the old band members she was temporarily working with, Pras Michel and Wyclef Jean). But she told the author: “You’ve never met anyone like me,” and he admitted in his article that no, he never had, the depth of her thinking and her discussions was otherworldly.

She played at a special concert at the Vatican in 2003 but instead of waiting for her applause she began her set with these words:

I am sorry if I am about to offend some of you. I did not accept my invitation to celebrate with you the birth of Christ. Instead I ask you why you are not in mourning for him in this place? I want to ask you, what have you got to say about the lives you have broken? What about the families who were expecting God and instead were cheated by the Devil? Who feels sorry for them, the men, women and children damaged psychologically, emotionally and mentally by the sexual perversions and abuse carried out by the people they believed in? Holy God is a witness to the corruption of your leadership, of the exploitation and abuses which are the minimum that can be said for the clergy. There is no acceptable excuse to defend the church.

I was moved not by the undoubted truth of the statement but by its phrasing. I had faith in what she had to say, because she had always said it better than anyone else.

She was called the real talent of The Fugees, probably correctly, and then released her one and only solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I bought it in 2002 and for a few days looked at her pictures in the CD booklet with the certainty that I had never seen a more physically beautiful female, with beautiful music and words to match. The songs Ex-factor, To Zion, Tell Him and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill left me stupefied that such beauty could be so consistently produced by one person, and utterly thankful. Her voice is feminine but deeper, a representation of the depth of her inner wisdom. She was the complete package of beauty in all its forms.

But she lost some of that beauty; she allegedly said that she didn’t care about white people, whether they bought her music or not, they had nothing to do with her, she didn’t need them. There she was playing the tired black card when I had been sure she was above the reverse racism shit that exists in spades among black Americans. I had thought the depth of her feeling placed her above the hatred she preached against but that she evidently practiced. I’m white, I’m just a person who wants to find some truth just like you, Lauryn.

On the net there are now unflattering photos of her having aged with a twisted face to match the probable twisted spirit and twisted mind. She may in theory be an emotional genius but in practice she is an emotional wreck now, who may or may not be bipolar, and the ersatz MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 CD was labelled as “a public breakdown”. But of course I bought it because how could I not hope for more greatness from the woman whose potential for beauty is so vast that that it supersedes the word ‘greatness’? She selfishly justified not having to care about a raspy voice to the people who paid money to hear the quality of her sound, but still had the time in her discourse to drop this gem: “Every time you submit your will to the approval of another person, a part of you dies.” Some called it ramblings, but I give the speaking part of the CD the thumbs up (although not the songs).

Her belated father-in-law Bob Marley was credited with being one of the best lyricists ever. His words are commendable simplicity but the “best ever” acclaim probably came from a bunch of fawning, pot-smoking rasta wannabes. Lauryn Hill is utterly the best musical lyricist to me. Below is her song Selah, a description of the life and the pain she thought she had left behind but that I don’t think she ever did.


Nothing can be done against the truth
No matter how we remain in denial
Wasting time, replacing time with each empty excuse
But that’ll only work a little while
Coping with despair
Knowing you’re not there
Ashamed to just admit I’ve been a fool
So I blame it on the sun
Run away from everyone
Hoping to escape this ridicule
Trapped in misery
Wrapped so miserably
In this deception that I’m wearing like a skin

Dying to maintain
Oh I keep trying to explain
A heart that never loved me to begin
Oh I’m such a mess
I have no choice but to confess
That I’ve been desperately trying to belong
Lying to myself and everybody else
Refusing to admit my right was wrong

And then he came

How beautiful is fruit still in denial of its roots?
My guilty heart behaved so foolishly
This treason from within
That reasons with my sin
Won’t be happy til it sees the death of me
Selfishly addicted
To a life that I depicted
Conflicted cause it’s not reality
Oh what’s left of me
I beg you desperately
Cause me to agree with what I know is best for me
Please save me from myself
I need you to save me from myself
Please save me from myself so I can heal

The choices that I’ve made
Oh have been nothing but mistakes
What a wasted use of space
Should I die before I wake?
In all of my religion
I’ve fortified this prison
Obligated to obey
The demands of bad decisions

Please save me from myself
I need you to save me from myself
Please save me from myself so I can heal

And then he came

5 thoughts on “Lauryn Hill and me

  1. Lauryn Hill is pretty cool and this is a great tribute post to her. I’ve always wanted to get The Miseducation but never got around to it. I loved Doo Wop, it really is a pity she never got back to her peak and went a little crazy. Sometimes its bad to be too smart. Its so interesting how much music & artists can influence who we are and what we do in our lives. I know that with myself, music plays a huge role, but I wish I could say I had such an influence from one artist like you have in Lauryn Hill. Probably Shakira or Beyonce would come closest.

  2. There’s something to be said about not overthinking things. I rate the practice and admire the people who do it well, even though to admire that I had to think about it. D’oh.

    I thought Shakira had disappeared until I went to South America in 2005, then I found I’d been very mistaken!
    Try a song called ‘Te lo agradezco pero no’ (Thanks but no thanks) she does with a bloke called Alejandro Sanz, it’s a cute song and video clip.

  3. I love Te lo agradezco! And most of her spanish songs like la tortura which was with alejandro too, si te vas, ojos asi and la pared.. She’s great in English but her spanish songs are more poetic I think. When I read the lyrics (translated) they have more feeling, probably because its more natural for her.g

  4. Pingback: Happiness found in Portugal « Love is lost

  5. Pingback: Amy Winehouse and me – Love is lost

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