It was 1984.
I wasn't long past my first suicide attempt, a half-assed gesture brought on by years of childhood sexual abuse and a serious disability that I'd survived much longer that anyone had ever expected.
I'd always been a creative type and there were two singers/songwriters whose music helped me hang on until I got strong enough to hang on using my own strength - John Hiatt and Rick Springfield.
I've long shared the story of how John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me" came on the radio as I was sitting in my bathroom with a loaded gun to my head. There was something about John Hiatt's lyrics that made it impossible for me to pull the trigger that night.
I've not shared as often the story of how Rick Springfield's "Love Somebody" played over and over and over again in my brain as I desperately tried to find a way to connect with a world that scared the hell out of me. I'd already been a Springfield fan, both for his far more substantial than one might realize lyrics and for his appealing work on television's "General Hospital."
Oh yeah, I was also freaking jealous of his hair.
So, it was with both professional discipline and personal exhilaration that I found myself approaching An Affair of the Heart, the first full-length feature documentary based on the musical journey and extraordinary fan base of the Grammy winning Springfield.
With my suicidal days long behind me, my appreciation for Springfield's music hasn't waned. By the mid 1980's, Springfield had captured four Grammy nominations with one win (Best Rock Vocal Male Performance for his biggest hit "Jessie's Girl"). While his 1984 feature film Hard to Hold didn't exactly excite the box-office, it still spawned hits including the aforementioned "Love Somebody." Springfield followed up with "Tao" and "Rock of Life" before stepping away from music for ten years until 1999's "Karma" and 2004's even better "Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance," the latter an album with so much anger it was hard to believe it came from a mid-80's pop star whose heartthrob good looks sometimes took a front seat to his immense talent.
An Affair of the Heart is most certainly about Rick Springfield, but not so much in an autobiographical sort of way. The film certainly gives some insights into Springfield's past and present, though more than anything it feels and sounds like a celebration of Springfield's journey through all its ups and downs and twists and turns.
Directed by Emmy winning director Sylvia Caminer, An Affair of the Heart was wildly successful throughout its festival run and picked up prizes at Nashville Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, Boston Film Festival and a host of other festivals before being picked up by Breaking Glass Pictures for its home video release on July 16, 2013.
While Breaking Glass always does their packing well, the packaging for An Affair of the Heart is even better than usual with an extra hour of goodies on the DVD release and a full-on extra two hours on the two-disc Blu-ray compilation including extended scenes, interviews and premieres.
Having seen Springfield in concert just about three years ago at the Indiana State Fair when the still remarkably fit singer was less than a week shy of his 60th birthday, it's much easier to comprehend what comes vividly across in An Affair of the Heart - Springfield, known as Rick to most of his fans, loves his fans and they are fiercely devoted to him in return.
While Springfield hasn't experienced the kind of overwhelming success that followed him in the 1980's, this new millennium version of Rick Springfield seems a happier, more inspired and incredibly more peaceful version of himself. Springfield at one point in the film points out that the best version of himself comes out onstage, a fact that comes to life as he reflects on struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts, past infidelities and a time in the 1980's when he felt far less connected to his fans.
That seems almost difficult to fathom just sitting back and watching Springfield almost surrender himself to his fans time after time throughout An Affair of the Heart. What may be the most refreshing aspect of this devotion is that we're not talking about the traditional groupies or backstage hotties. We're talking about men and women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. We're talking about kids who've been brought up on the stage with Rick multiple times and whose presence he always seems to remember. We're talking about people with remarkably poignant stories about how Rick's music has touched their lives.
The film even dabbles a bit into exploring what can feel almost a bit cultish at times, though we learned to expect it from Deadheads and we've gotten used to it with Phish fans, Dave Matthews fans and Jimmy Buffett's Parrotheads. While Springfield's fans may not quite sell out stadiums, he's got his legion of fans who follow him to several of his 70-80 shows a year. Springfield has his fans who follow him on cruises and who look forward to spending that precious few minutes that he seems to afford all his fans as much as he can.
Most of all, he seems to love it.
There's an enthusiasm and a vibrance captured in An Affair of the Heart that you simply can't fake, it's an enthusiasm borne of authenticity and an honest presence and a genuine connection. In the midst of the film's festival run, October 2012 saw the release of Springfield's acclaimed Songs for the End of the World and his unexpected yet magnificent pairing with Dave Grohl for the Sound City concert and film. Springfield also released the bestselling "Late, Late at Night," a book that has very much the feeling of this documentary in being both funny and heartbreaking in equal doses.
Truthfully, "funny and heartbreaking in equal doses" sums up An Affair of the Heart really well and it's not simply because of Springfield's own story but because of the honesty and the heartfelt sharing of his fans. The most eloquent story, perhaps, is that of Rev. Kate Davis, a Unitarian-Universalist minister from North Carolina whose earliest fondness for Springfield came courtesy of the clean-cut singer/actor's earring. Rev. Davis shares a story about having been gang raped and how the rawness of Springfield's "Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance" helped her eventually begin to move her life forward from that traumatic event.
If you haven't quite caught on yet, then I'll just spell it out for you. Yep, I loved pretty much everything about An Affair of the Heart. While I loved it as a fan, as a film critic I found myself equally pleased because Caminer captures the vibrancy of Springfield's music, the depth of his connection to his fans, the honesty of his story, and the power that we have to make a difference in each other's lives.
It's An Affair of the Heart, indeed.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic