As many others are doing this day, I'm watching the Live8 concert, watching bands struggle to turn their work into an appropriate statement about the way the world is run today. It's clear that the stream of awareness that was turned on in the 1960s has dwindled to a trickle when famous performers are unable to express a thought, an emotion that hasn't got something to do with self-gratification, no matter how well they dress it up. It takes an extraordinary person to strip away the layers upon layers of therapy that society throws at us in one shape or another and remember the basics. And it's not something facile like "I love you" or "I'm hurt" or "Aren't we great", either. Michael Stipe probably thinks more about what he says than just about any other performer I can think of, and to have written a simple, elegant, heartfelt celebration such as this - because it IS a celebration, this song - is an achievement that dwarfs so much of what has been created over the years.
"When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone/When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on/Don’t let yourself go, everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes." And it's not just the words; it's the plaintive, wailing chorus, the plangent, wavering keening overdubs and the sheer simplicity of the melody. This is the world's healing prayer, the ultimate statement of solidarity and empathy. The Who once sang: "The simple things you say are all complicated". Not in this case.