Don’t You Know What The Night Can Do?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  In 1988, English singer Steve Winwood [1] released an immensely successful album “Roll With It,” and the second hit single from that release was the sensually romantic track “Don’t You Know What The Night Can Do?”  While the song hit the top 10 and had a memorable music video that shows a tourist Winwood visiting what looks like a first peoples reservation town where he proceeds to have some rather intense flirtation and dancing with a lovely local young lady, the song was the subject of some controversy.  Perhaps surprisingly, in our times, the controversy was not over the racial undertones of the flirtation and romance, the hint of eroticism in the video, but rather over the fact that a snippet of the song had been used by American beer brewer Michelob for a jingle [2].  Winwood explains it well:  ” “When [the album] was finished, but before it came out, [Michelob] took the song they wanted, and very quickly shot the commercial. So what happened was the commercial came out before the album. Then the LP was released and the first single which was ‘Roll With It‘. Six weeks later the second single was due to be released which was the song they used for the commercial. They started putting the commercial on the TV before the single was out. It looked like I had written a beer jingle! [3]”

Aside from being a Justin Timberlake song, the term “Take Back The Night” has since the mid 1970’s been used as the title for various events that have encouraged female survivors of sexual assault and other related forms of violence to overcome the resulting anxiety and PTSD by banding together with supportive company.  As might be expected, this movement has drawn a great deal of scrutiny because in the beginning and in some places even up to now, only female survivors of sexual assault have been welcome at such events.  Male survivors of sexual assault have not always been welcome at such events.  Some people continue to argue that women need a safe spot, as if to be male was somehow to be threatening in and of itself, apart from violent or hostile intent [4].  Despite my understandable bias in this matter, I am not without understanding of the way that people generalize from particular situations, and sometimes those generalizations, no matter how untrue, bring us great discomfort and suffering because we feel deeply unsafe even where we are not being threatened.  Little about matters of triggers and anxiety and trauma is strictly rational, it must be admitted.

What similarities do we see between these two admittedly disparate phenomena?  On the one hand, we see a singer claiming that the night is responsible for his amorous advances, and on the other we see survivors of rape and trauma taking back the night as if it has done something against them.  To be sure, I am not someone who tends to find the nighttime a peaceful or enjoyable one.  For some people the night is associated with the fun of dancing, for me it is associated with insomnia and nightmares or just bizarre dreams [5] when I finally manage to fall asleep.  Yet as troublesome as the night has been for me throughout my entire life, the night itself has done nothing wrong.  All the night is is the general absence of light when the earth is in between the particular spot on the globe we are on and the sun, where only the reflected light of the moon, the pinpricks of light from satellites or stars far away, or the artificial light pollution of modern civilization or the light of our flashlights or cell phones allows us to see.  The night is a period of time bounded by conditions outside of its control–it has no active power itself to do anything at all, whether good or bad.

What the night provides is a context for people to act as they see fit and as they have the power to do.  If you want to sit alone on your bed after dinner and read books and write about them, the night is a good opportunity to do that.  If you want to go to a wild dance in a reservation and chat up and dance with a local beauty like Steve Winwood, you can do that too.  If you want to stay at home with your spouse and have a nice dinner and watch a movie on Netflix, you can do that as well.  If you want to take advantage of a family member or acquaintance or stranger, the night provides an opportunity for that if you have the power.  The night itself has no responsibility in the matter–it is simply the occasion that people choose to do what they wish out of boredom, fear, anger, or desire, or whatever else motivates them.  We are responsible for what we do in the night, though, and we ought to own up to that responsibility.  It’s time to stop blaming the night for what people have done in it.

[1] See, for example:


[3] Welch, Chris (1990). Steve Winwood (1st ed.). New York: Perigee Trade. p. 20. ISBN 978-0399515583.


[5] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Music History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Don’t You Know What The Night Can Do?

  1. Pingback: Like No One’s Watching You | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Because The Night | Edge Induced Cohesion

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