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Topaz Goldsmiths and Gallery

mauitopaz
January 20th, 2023
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today we present Jackson Browne’s “In the Shape of a Heart,” a 1986 ballad that uses a ruby necklace to convey the pain the artist feels when he learns his lover has gone. Rolling Stone magazine called it “one of Browne’s finest love songs.”

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Browne, who tragically lost his first wife, Phyllis Major, to a drug overdose in 1976 at the age of 30, confirmed that “In the Shape of a Heart” is, indeed, a story about their tempestuous relationship.

The song starts off with the ruby reference: “It was a ruby that she wore / On a chain around her neck / In the shape of a heart / In the shape of a heart / It was a time I won’t forget / For the sorrow and regret / And the shape of a heart / And the shape of a heart.”

Browne writes about missing the warning signs of his wife’s distress, while never really understanding “what she was talking about” or “what she was living without.”

In the end, when he realizes she’s not coming back, he takes the ruby heart necklace from the bed stand, holds it for a moment, and then drops it through a fist-sized hole in the wall.

He sings, “In the hour before dawn / When I knew she was gone / And I held it in my hand / For a little while / And dropped it into the wall / Let it go, heard it fall.”

In reviewing the song for Rolling Stone, Jimmy Guterman wrote that Browne “nails heartbreak to the wall and sends his listeners scurrying for the Kleenex.”

Released as the second single from his Lives in the Balance album, “In the Shape of a Heart” peaked at #10 on the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Asylum Records pressed a red vinyl promotional single in — you guessed it — the shape of a heart.

Born in Heidelberg, West Germany, the 74-year-old singer-songwriter has sold more than 18 million albums in the U.S. and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Among his most famous songs are “These Days,” “Running on Empty,” “Doctor My Eyes” and “Take It Easy.” As a political activist and humanitarian, Browne has supported the efforts of Amnesty International and co-founded MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy).

Please check out the video of Browne performing “In the Shape of a Heart.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“In the Shape of a Heart”
Written and performed by Jackson Browne.

It was a ruby that she wore
On a chain around her neck
In the shape of a heart
In the shape of a heart

It was a time I won’t forget
For the sorrow and regret
And the shape of a heart
And the shape of a heart

I guess I never knew
What she was talking about
I guess I never knew
What she was living without

People speak of love don’t know what they’re thinking of
Wait around for the one who fits just like a glove
Speak in terms of belief and belonging
Try to fit some name to their longing

There was a hole left in the wall
From some ancient fight
About the size of a fist
Or something thrown that had missed

And there were other holes as well
In the house where our nights fell
Far too many to repair
In the time that we were there

People speak of love don’t know what they’re thinking of
Reach out to each other though the push and shove
Speak in terms of the life and the learning
Try to think of a word for the burning

You keep it up
You try so hard
To keep a life from coming apart
And never know
What breaches and faults are concealed
In the shape of a heart

In the shape of a heart
In the shape of a heart

It was the ruby that she wore
On a stand beside the bed
In the hour before dawn
When I knew she was gone
And I held it in my hand
For a little while
And dropped it into the wall
I let it go, heard it fall

I… I guess I never knew
What she was talking about
I guess I never knew
What she was living without

People speak of love don’t know what they’re thinking of
Wait around for the one who fits just like a glove
Speak in terms of a life and the living
Try to find the word for forgiving

You keep it up
You try so hard
To keep a life from coming apart
And never know
The shallows and the unseen reefs
That are there from the start

In the shape of a heart
In the shape of a heart
In the shape of a heart
In the shape of a heart
In the shape of a heart
In the shape of a heart



Credits: Photo by Craig ONeal, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.