The Way Life Used to Be

‘Reflections’ was written by the Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland.  This is about a person looking back on a relationship that has ended.  It’s about a love that has gone bad, because things have changed over time.  Life is always changing, and tomorrow is always going to be different from today.  The singer is angry because of the way that things have changed, and the only way that you can be happy in life is when you learn how to adapt to the changes.  The singer reflects back on the man that she used to be with and she blames him for taking love out of her life.  He has left her all alone in a distorted reality and the memories only bring her sadness.  She wants to hold on to the happy times that they spent together, but as she looks back, she sees only anguish in this relationship that she now considers to be nothing more than wasted time.  She trusted this guy and now she realizes that her whole world has crumbled into dust, right in front of her.  Maybe things will work out better for her next time.

The track begins with unusual noises before the song actually starts.  The Holland-Dozier Holland team reportedly heard the recording engineer making these strange noises with an oscillator in the studio and they decided to keep them.  ‘Reflections’ was recorded in 1967 by The Supremes for the Motown label.  It was the last of their hit singles to be written and produced by Motown’s main production team Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland.  Holland-Dozier-Holland are one of the most accomplished songwriting teams in the history of popular music.  Out of the over 400 songs that they composed, 130 of them made it to the Pop Charts.  They wrote over 70 songs that were Top Ten Hits and more than 40 of their songs reached the number one chart position.  They wrote nine #1 hits for The Supremes and several for The Four Tops, as well as Martha & the Vandellas, and several other acts on the label.  After a few years of runaway success, the three writers demanded publishing rights to their songs, but were rebuffed by Gordy.  This was when they wrote ‘Reflections’, which pleased Gordy by providing yet another hit for The Supremes, but portended the departure of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who left a short time later, breaking their contract in the process.  The legal tussle between Gordy and his former star writers stretched on for many years.  In 1987, The National Academy of Songwriters bestowed upon these prolific composers its Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 1988, they were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

‘Reflections’ was the first Supremes record released under the new billing, Diana Ross & the Supremes, something the other Supremes were not happy about.  The song is also among the final singles to feature Florence Ballard, who recorded vocals for this song during one of her last studio sessions before she was fired on July 1.  It peaked at #2 in the US and it reached #5 on the UK charts.  ‘Reflections’ is one of the most popular examples of the influence of psychedelic rock on the soul genre.  Psychedelic soul would challenge the traditional Motown sound.  Sonically, this was a departure for The Supremes, with no saxophone or prominent electric guitar backbeat.  It retained the sturdy bassline of James Jamerson, but featured a Wurlitzer electric piano by Earl Van Dyke and tambourine by Jack Ashford.  Pistol Allen was the drummer and Joe Messina added guitar.  The trippy oscillator-generated sound effects were created with a custom oscillator designed by one of The Funk Brothers.

Through the mirror of my mind
Time after time
I see reflections of you and me

Reflections of
The way life used to be
Reflections of
The love you took from me

Oh, I’m all alone now
No love to shield me
Trapped in a world
That’s a distorted reality

Happiness you took from me
And left me alone
With only memories

Through the mirror of my mind
Through these tears that I’m crying
Reflects a hurt I can’t control
‘Cause although you’re gone
I keep holding on
To the happy times
Oh, when you were mine

As I peer through the window
Of lost time
Looking over my yesterdays
And all the love I gave all in vain
(All the love) All the love
That I’ve wasted
(All the tears) All the tears
That I’ve tasted
All in vain

Through the hollow of my tears
I see a dream that’s lost
From the hurt
That you have caused

Everywhere I turn
Seems like everything I see
Reflects the love that used to be

In you I put
All my faith and trust
Right before my eyes
My world has turned to dust

After all the nights
I sat alone and wept
Just a handful of promises
Are all that’s left of loving you

Reflections of
The way life used to be
Reflections of
The love you took from me

In you I put
All my faith and trust
Right before my eyes
My world has turned to dust

Written for Eugi’s Weekly Prompt – Reflections.

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