“Me and Mrs. Jones,” 1972

I grew up listening to soul music, especially during the weekly car rides to our family house in Pennsylvania with my parents, both of whom were avid soul and R&B fans. My father loved James Brown and the Temptations, especially David Ruffin, while my mother preferred Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. However, it was Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” that really held significant meaning as it was a song that my mother and I shared a common love for. We both never tire of listening to it and it is truly a classic in our books. I would strongly advise everyone to take a listen and let the beauty of the record take you to peaceful places. Posted below is the YouTube link for this wonderful song. 

This song was the only one of Billy Paul’s that reached the Billboard Top 100. It stayed on the charts in the number one spot for three weeks in December of 1972. I do not recall any other song that Billy Paul made truly famous and he can most certainly be considered a one-hit-wonder. Regardless, the raw talent and voice that Billy Paul possessed should never be overlooked. The single, written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Cary Gilbert, was included on the album “360 Degrees of Billy Paul.” Despite not having an established career, Paul was able go platinum (selling 2 million copies of the song) and was awarded a Grammy off the strength of “Me and Mrs. Jones.”

The song tells a story of infidelity in which two lovers are wrapped up in an intense love affair. The lyrics to the song convey this message in a forward fashion, but are sung with such immense passion and feelings of heartache.

“Me and Mrs. Jones
We got a thing going on
We both know that it’s wrong
But it’s much too strong to let it go now

We meet everyday at the same cafe
6:30 and no one knows she’ll be there
Holding hands, making all kinds of plans
While the jukebox plays our favorite song…”

The lyrics above clearly demonstrate that their is an ongoing extramarital affair between the singer and Mrs. Jones, and even displays signs of remorse as they both “know that it’s wrong.” Despite the song’s controversial subject, the feelings that arise while listening to the song do not force you to feel this remorse, but rather empathize with the complicated love that Paul so painfully sings about. The lyrics below depict the longing Paul feels to be with his secret lover. 

“Well, it’s time for us to be leaving
And it hurts so much, it hurts so much inside
And now she’ll go her way and I’ll go mine”

One of the most standout attributes of the record has to be Paul’s vocal display. His delivery is consistent and continuously builds throughout the song, making for a more climatic ending. His voice is both smooth and raspy, and when he hits the chorus, the power in his tone sends shivers down my spine. Along with his vocal talents, the soothing keys and saxophone melodies in the background sets a strong romantic vibe to help make the song truly cohesive. 

The You Tube video of an older Billy Paul performing this song to an appreciative audience shows the crowd clapping and hooting when he hits the chorus – “Me e-e-e-e- an- and Mrs., Mrs. Jones…” Although he can no longer hit the notes as well as he could in his youth, the video shows that the power of these lines still have an impact on listeners. Here is the link to Billy Paul’s live performance at a show he played later on in life. 

 The song was also covered by Michael Buble in 2007, which garnered acclaim and increased the popularity of the 1972 song. Although Buble executes the song well and always sings in beautiful manner, Paul’s recording will always be the original gem. Posted below is Buble’s performance of the song. 

In more recent news, Amy Winehouse wrote a song titled “Me and Mr. Jones,” which was evidently influenced by the original record. Her version focuses on her relationship with legendary Hip-Hop artist Nas, whose last name happens to be “Jones.” Here is a link to Amy’s rendition of Paul’s classic. 

– Luke Taro Nagaoka  

 

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