Nils Lofgren Helped Write A Classic 1970s Rod Stewart Ballad

Nils Lofgren is a great talent who has had a spectacular career, often as a band member in the shadows of other stars like Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. One piece of information I recently discovered is that he contributed to the classic ballad “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” even though he is not in the song’s credits.

The song is by Danny Whitten and was originally recorded by Crazy Horse. Whitten struggled with finishing the song and Lofgren liked the song and encouraged him to finish it. Eventually Lofgren took the initiative to write a few more lines to finish the song. Crazy Horse released the song in 1971, and then in 1975 Rod Stewart had a hit in both the U.S. and the U.K. with the song, which appeared on his album Atlantic Crossing.

The song has a typical broken-heart theme, with the singer lamenting lost love. But “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” is one of the great heartbreak ballads of the twentieth century. The melody and the contradictions of the lyrics raise the song to another level, with the singer asking a lover to listen while at the same time saying he does not want to talk about it.

I don’t want to talk about it, how you broke my heart.
If I stay here just a little bit longer,
If I stay here, won’t you listen to my heart, whoa, heart?
I don’t want to talk about it, how you broke this old heart.

Stewart rerecorded the song in 1989, and later he performed the song with Amy Belle. Other artists have covered the song too. The Indigo Girls did a nice cover for the soundtrack to the film Philadelphia (1993), and Everything But the Girl had a hit with the song in 1985 when they released it as a single in the UK.

YouTube used to have a video of Lofgren talking about the song, but it has disappeared. But here is a live version of Lofgren playing the song with Trio Rio on New Years Eve 2014.

What do you think of “I Don’t Want to Talk About It”? Ballad classic or syrupy crap? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    2 thoughts on “Nils Lofgren Helped Write A Classic 1970s Rod Stewart Ballad”

    1. There is a great article about Danny Whitten online here:
      He sounds like a wonderful guy but one who was too sensitive for this world.
      I don’t know why they selected such a horrible photo of him as he was really quite handsome.
      He had a lot of health problems and came from a dirt poor background and went a lot further than many people from his humble roots would ever go, as the article states, he just couldn’t live with the “shittiness” of people.
      I love “Talk About it” so much – I think I have figured out who it was written about and why.
      Since Rod S. has made soooooo much money from that beautiful song I wonder if Danny’s sister has ever received any of the royalty money? If not he should just cut her a check for a couple of million, don’t you agree?

      1. Thanks for the link. Yes, it is a great song, and the long article at the link quotes Nils Lofgren saying, “I think it is one of the greatest ballads ever.” (p. 54) And he also is quoted more about how he added the few lines out of frustration because he loved the song so much and wanted it to be finished so they could record it. I see the article also reports that a young Rochelle Robertson was the inspiration for the song, as they were separated by age and distance so the longing and sadness is reflected in the song.

        I also like the story where one of the other Crazy Horse band members asked Whitten the name of the song and he replied, “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” So the band member thought that Whitten did not want to tell him the name of the song. It reminds me of Abbott and Costello and “Who’s On First?”

        Thanks again for the comment.

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