Some Velvet Morning – My Personal Exploration

Lee
Some velvet mornin’ when I’m straight
I’m gonna open up your gate
And maybe tell you ’bout Phaedra
And how she gave me life
And how she made it end
Some velvet mornin’ when I’m straight

Nancy
Flowers growing on a hill, dragonflies and daffodils
Learn from us very much, look at us but do not touch
Phaedra is my name

Lee
Some velvet mornin’ when I’m straight
I’m gonna open up your gate
And maybe tell you ’bout Phaedra
And how she gave me life
And how she made it end
Some velvet mornin’ when I’m straight

Nancy
Flowers are the things we know, secrets are the things we grow
Learn from us very much, look at us but do not touch
Phaedra is my name

Lee Some velvet mornin’… 

Recently while listening to Rich Terfry on CBC FM on a dark, rainy, Covid afternoon, he shared a story about the song “Some Velvet Morning” sung by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. I was familiar with Nancy from the sixties when like many mid-twenty year olds I had a crush on her after watching the music video “These Boots Were Made for Walking” 

However I had not heard of Lee or Some Velvet Morning. Rich wove a fascinating story about how Frank had asked Lee to resurrect Nancy’s failing music career and the result was a collaboration that began with Boots and lasted for about three years before Lee moved to Sweden. One rumour suggested that Frank did not like how close Lee and Nancy had become and put a contract out on Lee resulting in his hasty move.

I was entranced by the story and also by the beauty of the song. (At one time British music journalists elected it the most beautiful duet ever.) I could not get enough of it. I found it on YouTube and began to listen to it repeatedly, followed by some of the other beautiful duets they sang together. 

Then I wanted to find out more. Who was Phaedra? What did these lyrics mean? Research suggested that no satisfactory meaning for the song had ever been found. Some claimed it was about drugs but Lee dismissed that saying he did not do drugs. Others wondered if it was about Lee’s close relationship with Nancy but in reality it remains a mystery.

I was curious, the song had a dreamlike quality and featured Phaedra who seemed integral to the lyrics. Just who was Phaedra? She was a minor Greek Goddess, wife of Theseus who had fallen in love with her half brother Hippolytus who had rejected her and so the spurned Phaedra told her husband she had been raped by him. Theseus, appears to have cursed him, and different legends refer to various unpleasant outcomes for Hippolytus.

Based upon my understanding of Jungian psychology, if Lee did not know why he had chosen Phaedra as the focus of this song then his unconscious had chosen it for him. He must have known the story of Phaedra so how could this story be relevant to him and Nancy. 

I also knew that my compulsion around this song and its story was related to my unconscious and likely represented a projection of some kind. Eminent Jungian Analyst and author James Hollis describes projection as “a mechanism whereby the psychological contents leave us and enter the world seeking an object – a person, an institution, a role – upon which to fasten.”

Mine had chosen this song and its story – why? I was sharing this adventure with a friend who is also a therapist and when she asked me, “what is the projection”. I heard myself say, “unrequited love”. Up until that moment I had not seen the connection but knew immediately it was significant. A major theme of my past twenty years has been unrequited and unrealized love. For some reason it had been projected on Lee and Nancy.

Then a story emerged that seemed to make total sense combining myth, the lyrics and rumours to find my sense of meaning in this song. Suppose Nancy fell in love with Lee, not uncommon when two people are so closely intertwined. Perhaps her father Frank found out and was not amused. Hollywood royalty would not condone a relationship with the “help”- the son of an oil worker and his precious daughter. 

However every Father knows that you cannot tell your daughter who to fall in love with or to prohibit the liaison, invariably they will do the opposite. So maybe Dad went to Lee and told him the score, “You are not to reciprocate my daughter’s feelings and you are also never to tell her I have interfered. In fact I think it better that you leave town.”

Then one day this song emerged whereby Lee’s unconscious created a song of his unrequited love – explaining something he could never express possibly in fear of his life. So perhaps Nancy is the Phaedra who “gave him life” but also “made it end”; he was never allowed to touch only to look. Perhaps this solution simply satisfies my own projection but on the other hand it also seems an elegant resolution to the mystery of Phaedra in the lyrics and “secrets we will never know”.

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