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Music is a reflection of ourselves if we but open our eyes
Almost all my life, I have found music to be something to be enjoyed, to enrich and envelope myself in. Some songs can lift me up, raise my spirits when they need to be; to sooth my heart when it is hurting. Music is, always has been and always will be important to me, something which I am able to identify with in a special manner.
Not all songs have the ability to touch me in this way, nor is every artist who sings a good song a person I desire to listen to and allow inside my world. Some travel in a area close to my heart and soul but are just not quite there. Few there are who gain the entrance into the inner world of me. Perhaps by my introducing them to you, along with their particular song that meets the criteria to accomplish that which I hold dear, you might come to have an insight into who I am, how my hidden self works.
I am opening the door just a smidgen. Take a peek.
Barbara Streisand "Memory"
I realize this is not the original version of this song, nor the best known song of the phenomenal talent that is Babs. I also realize that my generation and later ones might not even be interested in Ms. Streisand; but that is their failure, their ignorance at what might be one of the greatest talents of all time. That voice is absolute perfection, and while some may not agree, I believe she could sing anything from a lullaby to opera and it be something I could simply close my eyes, rest my head and listen for an eon or two to.
Memory, from the musical Cats and perhaps best known as being sung by Elaine Page is considered to be her signature song. Barbara recorded it later and released it as a single, which failed to even reach the Top 50 of Billboard. How in the hell can Barbara not crack the Top 50? But her voice makes this song, to me, absolutely mesmerizing.
When paired with the melody, these words and that voice I am lost. The pain evident inside the song mirrors pain I have had in my life, pain I will never get over completely. But this song, while it augments that pain, also has the means to ease it just a bit, because I recognize that other people share such pain as I have, and thus I am not alone.
Linda Ronstadt "Blue Bayou"
The Voice That Was. Linda Ronstadt. Country? Check. Pop? Check? Rock. Check. Opera? Check. Big Band? Check. Check. Check. What couldn't Ms. Ronstadt sing? Her voice, with the power she displayed alongside a tender, seemingly hurt side that made us love her in a way few singers are ever loved. Not the idiotic adoration of a Taylor Swift, nor a blind towards their actual ability of someone like Lady Gaga, but a true love of a talent, a voice that needs no augmentation such as singers require to be on key, to be interesting in music today. There were no dancers needed a la Jennifer Lopez or Shakira, just a microphone (perhaps not even that) and a stage and that incredible voice.
Linda had many songs that were hits but her remake of Roy Orbison's Blue Bayou is the one that I enjoy the most. Her plaintive voice as it sings about going home simply crawls me in and carries me away to a place I have never seen, never experienced and yet, I know it.
The greatest crime ever committed is not one perpetrated by a felon, or a politician; rather it is one which was perpetrated on Linda Ronstadt by Life. A voice which sang What's New with Nelson Riddle, Don't Know Much with Aaron Neville and Somewhere Out There with James Ingram is silenced, never to be heard again except in memories and recordings; never to be heard in a new song because of an illness.
I can think of no greater tragedy in music, and few in life than Ms. Ronstadt's loss.
Mariah Carey "Hero"
This one is a bit different, a bit more difficult. While it is a beautiful, moving song, a tribute it holds a very different meaning for me.
Early July, 1998. My Brother In Law had committed suicide over a woman. I knew he had been having issues with her and had talked him through some difficult times. This time, I wasn't there and he died as a result. I will never forgive myself for that lapse. I was at a new job and tried to talk over the phone with his sister. When I got off work and headed over, I was met with police, a barricade, news reporters and video people broadcasting a standoff live. He had no hostages, yet they treated it as such. I was not allowed to go down and speak with him and six hours later, came the shot.
He was young and strong, and held on for three days after a shot to the chest. When he was declared brain dead, the question arose "What to do with his organs?". His sister in law (who was a nurse) and I talked the family into donating them. I then went for a drive that night, into a helluva storm. Lightning, thunder, wind, rain. I turned on Delilah After Dark and listened as a woman asked Delilah to play a song specifically for those who had to make the difficult decision of ending a life and donating a loved one's organs. To her, they were heroes for making that decision to help others live.
That song was Hero sung by Mariah Carey.
I lost it.
It was as though God was speaking directly to me through that song. Straight into my heart, into my soul. It hurt, even as it soothed me.
After that moment in time, it was years before I could listen to it again. Years. Close to a decade. If it came on, I would turn it off. Still today, it haunts me as I listen to those words and recall that night, that storm in the world and my heart as I blamed myself for his passing. If only I had taken off work, had gotten there a bit sooner, I could have helped him one more time. Maybe.
And so, this song is what I identify with for that moment in time, his life, my failure.
Neil Diamond "I Am I Said"
I Am I Said. What a declarative, powerful, positive statement wrapped up into a song! I Am! Whenever I get blue, sad, lost I listen to this song, or sing it when I am driving. I Am! I Said!
While some may think this is a song about being lost, not belonging in the present moment, place, time I look at it as a door, a window into a place where I believe in myself, where I am in control. I Am! Why? Because I Said! I control me, I control my situation I have a choice, I choose! I Am!
Another song very close to this one in meaning to me is Jim Croce's "I've Got A Name". These two songs represent the very best of who I am to me, of who I can be regardless of Life, of whatever is being thrown at me, attempting to diminish who I am. They are among my very favorites of all time.
Elton John "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me"
Although I search myself, it's always someone else I see.
For years, I wandered, if not lost then at least without direction. Floating along, moved about by Life's winds and currents; no anchor, no solidity. Until I met my Angel.
This song has the ability to express what I was for the first portion of my life, a person who did what he felt he should do, yet wasn't true to who he was. Married by law but not by heart. A family which was blood yet was not bound by love. For forty years I drifted until one day, I woke up and made a decision. From this day forth, I was going to be different, was going to do something with my life that pleased me, made me happy, gave me strength. And this song played a part.
Corny? Maybe. True? Definitely. It began with a job in which I told the interviewer (again, corny but true) "I've had jobs; I want a career." From that moment, my life started over. It was at that job I met my Angel, we fell in love, and Life really began for me.
Thank you, Elton and Bernie. I left behind all those I thought loved me and didn't really, and embraced the ones who really did once I found them. This song represents that changing of the tide in me.
John Denver "Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stones"
This may be the perfect song. A once in a lifetime voice, complementing words drawn from the heart and gifted to the world for all time. And knowing that voice is stilled forever makes this a truly bittersweet song to listen to for me.
Never have any words which have been stated or sung been any truer than these. Some days are diamonds, some days are stones. We must recognize which are which, and hold on to the ones which are diamonds with all our might. Relish them, live them, enjoy them.
Today, right now, we are living days which can be termed "stones". They are hard, harder than many we have known before. It seems as if "the hard times won't leave me alone" to many of us in America and the world as we battle this virus. "The cold wind" is blowing a chill in my bones as he said in the song, but we must look beyond it. We must find the diamond in the rough and embrace it.
It might be the extra time spent with our family, time we would not have had if not for the virus. Some look upon this time as a prison sentence, locked away with someone they should be happy to be with; after all, it was a choice to marry, to have a child, to become a family, right? For most of us, it was; for some, perhaps not so much. And yet, there are joys to be found if we look for them. Please, look. Search, look hard, they are there I assure you.
That is what this song means to me. Seek out the good and leave the bad which tries to fill your life behind.
© 2020 Mr Archer