Yesterday I wrote to how this regular practice of writing has been therapeutic for me, and I had a bit of an idea as to how music can be similarly therapeutic. What triggered it was a trip to get my hair cut. I walked into the salon space of my stylist, and she had Pandora going on her iPad.
Playing through the speakers was “Piano Man” by Billy Joel. I’m certain you have heard this song at some point in your life, and I acknowledge that many out there have negative feelings towards the song. I do not, though. Whenever I hear anything by Billy Joel, and “Piano Man” in particular, I am filled with warm thoughts and memories of my brother. He passed away in January of 2002 and was the biggest Billy Joel fan I ever knew. Anytime I hear his music, I have the feeling that my brother is with me at that moment.
It got me to thinking about music in general and the feelings it can create, and that led me to writing about it. I have a couple of friends who are so tied to and in tune with music and lyrics. They have a song and a set of lyrics for every occasion and often speak in those lyrics. I’m not one of them, but I do recognize the beauty that they contain.
For example, I was listening to “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty, and the chorus jumped out at me.
“Yeah runnin’ down a dream;
That never would come to me;
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads;
Runnin’ down a dream”
Talk about summing up where I am right at this very moment. Quite honestly, if there is a mood or a feeling out there, then there’s a song lyric about it. When you get down to it, music is just lyrical poetry. Even stuff like Big Sean’s “Dance (A$$)“:
“Ass ass ass ass ass;
Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass;
Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass;
Stop! Now make that motherfucker hammer time like;
Go stupid, go stupid, go stupid”
Well, maybe not. But, the point remains that the people who write the songs are trying to impart meaning into their words much like us writers try to. It doesn’t always succeed. For every successful piece of writing, there’s usually several that have been cast into the trash can or deleted off the screen.
For me, music also has a way of transporting me back into time and a different place. Sometimes when I hear a song, I can remember the exact moment that I heard it for the first time. The one song that I always remember where I was is Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It was 1986, May 10th to be exact (so I had to look up the exact date) and I was 14 years old. I was finishing my freshman year in high school and per usual, I was up on Saturday night watching Saturday Night Live. I remember nothing else from the show with the exception of that performance. It has stuck with me for 32 years, and will until the day I die.
I was transfixed by the music, by the dancing, by the sound. The first opportunity I had, I secured a copy of the Graceland album, which to this day, remains my favorite of all time. The entire album was a mixture of sound and melody unlike anything I had ever heard prior to and since. Anytime I’m in a bit of a funky mood, I’ll put that album on and sing along (very badly).
Another artist that’s a favorite of mine is Jimmy Buffett. I will state right off the bat that I realize that he is far from a deep artist. Most of his lyrics are pretty silly, but his music transports me away from where I am and literally into Margaritaville. His concerts are like mini vacations. They transport you away from real life and the worries that go along with it for a few hours and you can get lost in the atmosphere. It is a giant beach party, and everyone is invited.
As time marches on, everyone gets older and eventually dies. 2016 was a brutal year in terms of musical deaths with the loss of David Bowie and Prince. When artists like that depart, it is really difficult to reconcile sometimes. Their music was everywhere as I was growing up. I was never a huge Bowie fan, but I liked his music and appreciated it. My favorite of his growing up was “Under Pressure” that he did with Queen. Ironically, I was first introduced to that song by Vanilla Ice and “Ice, Ice Baby” thanks to the riff he “borrowed” from the tune.
Prince, on the other hand, was a huge part of my tween and teenage years. He was seemingly everywhere and his Purple Rain album was a masterpiece. His death hit me hard. In terms of celebrity death, his death and Jim Henson’s were the biggest gut punches. We take for granted certain people even if we don’t know them. Those were two for me.
Tom Petty’s death last fall, though, was the toughest. His music was the soundtrack to my college years. I really fell for his music during that time frame and it has stuck with me ever since. Anytime I heard one of his songs, especially anything from Full Moon Fever, I was transported back to that time frame in the early 1990’s that were my college years. His death was like a piece of that college experience being extinguished. The memories are there, but it is not quite the same.
The great thing is that even though the artist may be gone, the music lives on. I think that is one of the reasons I write. When I’m gone, my writing may still be out there. It’s one way to continue living. Not that I want to be immortal. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
I feel as though this post has gone a little off track, but that’s okay. I’m a little off track, so it is safe to say that this blog really fits who I am. Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll see you soon.