30 day song challenge: day 21 – a song that you listen to when you’re happy

Honestly? The tune I reach for when the sun is blazing and a smile on my face is Yvonne Elliman’s If I Can’t Have You.

Yes, she’s forlorn, but the upbeat tempo and rousing brass is enough to put a bounce in anyone’s step. The song is – by far – the best on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. I just love the chord structures, the slightly hoarse vocal delivery, the harmonies, the complexity of the arrangement, and how it’s just so damn catchy.

The song was written by the Bee Gees and reached number 1 in the US (number 4 in the UK) in 1978. Elliman was originally supposed to sing How Deep Is Your Love, but RSO chairman and Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood insisted that the acts swap songs. If I Can’t Have You was subsequently the fourth single from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, knocking the Bee Gees’ Night Fever from the number 1 slot on the Billboard charts, ending its eight-week reign.



Elliman, who’d come to prominence in the Jesus Christ Superstar musical, was reportedly dismissive of the song. She felt it unsuited to her vocal style, but she never quite worked out where to put that distinctive voice. Regardless, she released one more disco song – Love Pains, in 1979 – which gave her another Top 40 hit before she dropped from sight in the 1980s. She returned with an album, Simple Needs, in 2004, and appears occasionally in concert.




One comment on “30 day song challenge: day 21 – a song that you listen to when you’re happy

  1. Pingback: Top 100 singles of all time: 98 – S-Express – Theme From S-Express « Reinspired

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