“If” by Bread

A memorial song with a romantic view of the end of life
A couple locks one finger together, each with anchor tattoos to represent their love for each other as in the song "If"

Credit: MaxPixel.com

It’s often difficult to put into words how much you care for someone important in your life. Many of us squander the small opportunities we get every day to express our gratitude and love for the people around us. And by the time the end arrives, we find ourselves at a loss for words. Bread’s “If” captures those deep feelings of love that can’t always be expressed, making it a touching memorial song for the most precious person in your life.

This short memorial song packs a ton of meaning and emotion into just a few stanzas. The narrator laments that his feelings are frustratingly complex. He has trouble “painting” the full picture of the person he loves because such a painting would gloss over the nuances that make his love special. It’s hard to distill years of adoration into a simple image or a handful of words.

Although the song has obvious romantic overtones, its themes apply to many different kinds of relationships. In one section of the song, the singer compares the person he loves to Helen of Troy, whose face could launch a thousand ships. Yet what he means by this comparison is not just that his lover is beautiful, but that he never wants to leave her side. His love makes him feel as if he’s always home. This is a feeling that most of us have for our romantic partners. But it’s also something that we feel for other people in our lives who make us feel safe and protected and loved.

Toward the end of the song, “If” becomes more like a ballad for a love lost. The narrator imagines the end of his life and wants nothing more than to be with the person he loves most. There’s a gleam of hope in the song when he sings,

If the world should stop revolving, spinning slowly down to die,
I’d spend the end with you.
And when the world was through,
Then one by one the stars would all go out,
Then you and I would simply fly away

Rather than looking at death as the end, Bread’s “If” is a memorial song that embraces the end with vigor. It romanticizes spending those last precious moments with the person you love most, making it a comforting thought instead of a worrying one.

Read the full lyrics for Bread’s “If” here.

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