Back in 1972 at the tender age of 6, singer-songwriter Don McLean asked the musical question "Can music save your mortal soul" in the classic song American Pie.
In my 50 plus years in this world, I have often heard people say a certain album or song changed their life. I think most people use that expression to describe becoming a fan of a particular artist or genre, or becoming immersed in a particular scene. The underlying question is, other than musical taste or perhaps social lifestyle, has the music truly changed their life?
I was reflecting on when I quit drinking almost 12 years ago. I had just turned 40, I was a new, first time father, I hated my job and was at the dreaded "is this all there is and what does it mean" point in my life. And I was drinking too much. To make matters worse, I was drinking to numb myself to all of the things I was dealing with, or more accurately, did not want to deal with. I had lost the ability to feel joy and happiness and always felt an impending sense of doom. Either that, or that I was going to make a big mistake in raising my child or expose him to some of the ugliness I had experienced growing up.
A couple of months before I quit drinking I dusted off some of my old cd's and was listening to a couple of albums from start to finish while I was just zoning out on a Saturday night. Wife and son asleep, my trusty twelve ounce friends by my side.
One of the albums I listened to was by band named Marillion called "Clutching at Straws". For those who don't remember them, they were part of the neo-prog movement/revival in the early to mid 80's and had a minor hit in the US with the song "Kayleigh" off the album "Misplaced Childhood" in 1985.
Clutching at Straws was a loose concept record centered around a hard drinking, self loathing, eminently disappointed, down on his luck character named Torch.
The album had always been a favorite, but really spoke to me this time. Oddly enough, I was at least a couple of beers in when I put it on.
I realized that this character was in many ways a reflection of me and where I was. The lyrics of desperation, self deprecation and hopelessness really hit home. A couple of lines from these stuck with me for a long while.
"Drying out a conscience, evicting a nightmare, Opening the doors for the dreams to come home"
"We make futile gestures, act to the cameras, With our made-up faces and our PR smiles"
"And if you ever come across us don't give us your sympathy, You can buy us a drink and just shake our hands,
And you'll recognise by the reflection in our eyes that deep down inside we're all one and the same
We're clutching at straws, We're still drowning"
"So if you want my address, It's number one at the end of the bar, Where I sit with the broken angels, Clutching at straws and nursing our scars"
"Can you understand it's the way I choose to be,
Everything seems so easy this way, But I'm going under fast
Am I so crazy?"
I took about two months of turning these lines over in my head, when the light when on and I decided to make a change. It hasn't been all unicorns and rainbows since, but I can face things with a clear mind and heart and take joy in all the little blessings we get every day..
I know this a rambling treatise, but it is story I have always wanted to share, but always felt self conscious about doing so.
If you have read this, thanks for taking the time.