Bill Withers has a way of taking real relationship situations and expressing them perfectly in lyric form. “Hello Like Before” is one of many examples from his too-short catalog. In this mid ’70s slow jam, Withers sings in character as someone whose run into an old love by happenstance, probably at a party or some other social event. He says he wouldn’t have shown up if he knew that she was going to be there, but he’s nonetheless happy to see her. He remarks on the relationship the two shared, noting the fact that they were children when they were involved, and that he hopes they’ve both grown since then. Bill’s delivery has a bittersweet tone to it, matching up with the lyrics.
I just find so much of this song relatable. I’ve run into my share of exes by accident over the years (including, yes, at social events) and there’s always the rush that comes from remembering the happy times you spent together, accompanied with (or followed by) a sort of deflation when you remember why things didn’t work out, concluded by the eternal question–could things have worked out? Getting through all of those emotions would probably require a much longer song than “Hello Like Before”, but at least Bill (one of America’s greatest lyricists, I must reiterate) created a song that lets us know that we’re not alone in experiencing a multitude of feelings when someone we once loved unexpectedly re-enters our life.