FIRST PUBLISHED MARCH 29, 2016
How does music save your soul? As promised, this week's blog post looks at music that inspires us and how it does that. These are the questions I posed to my granddaughters:
1) WHO INSPIRED YOU AND WHY? Was it the lyrics? The sound of the singer's or band's voice or instruments? The interpretation of the music? Name some musicians, their songs you like most and exactly what it is you like about their music.
2) WHAT SONGS HAVE TOUCHED YOUR SOUL? MADE YOU CRY? GIVEN YOU CHILLS? CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
There are songs that cross the boundaries of time and place, those that seem to touch everyone's soul no matter our age differences or where we were born or raised. Recently, during devotions in our home, I played a video of the well-known song "Morning Has Broken," as sung by Cat Stevens. A very audible, contented sigh went up as soon as the song began. This beloved hymn, written in 1931 to the tune of the Scottish Gaelic song "Bunessan," and revised and covered by many artists, touches a collective cord. How and why does a song do that, I wondered? According to Rick Wakeman, who wrote the familiar piano arrangement on the Stevens recording, he feels Cat's version "was a very beautiful piece of music that had brought people closer to religious truth."
I believe a lot of songs do that very thing. They speak to our spiritual nature. Our granddaughter, Sofia, while listening to "Scarborough Fair," declared it was "God's music." Something about that song spoke to her young soul. Think about the few internationally recognized songs listed here and the way they make you feel more connected to the Holy and you'll know what I mean:
"Imagine" (John Lennon)
"Amazing Grace" (your artist of choice)
"Hallelujah" (Leonard Cohen)
"What a Wonderful World" (Louis Armstrong)
"The Impossible Dream" (from Man of La Mancha)
We desire to give our grandchildren as much spiritual music as we can. And by that we in no way mean solely "religious" songs. We are talking about the kind of music that inspires you to be a better person, to lead a good and fulfilling life. Whether that's a song by Simon and Garfunkel, an Italian aria, a soulful Nina Simone tune, the Beatles or the Beach Boys, it's all good. If there are many paths to God, there are certainly MILLIONS of musical paths. How great is that when we can all unite over music!
Bet you all know the effect of these two songs! No matter where you are in the U.S., there's a good chance everyone chants in unison to "Sweet Caroline": "So good! So good! So good!" And worldwide, people can be heard singing along to "New York, New York"! Not exactly spiritual songs, but they are both certainly spiritually uplifting. Anything that unites us is an excellent thing!
When I asked my granddaughters to answer the questions about who inspires them and what music touches their souls, they were a just a wee bit overwhelmed. So much from which to choose, Dandy! How can we give you just one answer? Here's their short list:
Jain says, "Many classical artists inspired me to become a violist, and it's mainly Tchaikovsky who still inspires me. The Beatles, in particular, touch my soul with their lyrics and rhythms, although there is no specific song because there are too many to choose from. I love Billy Joel's 'Piano Man.' A music video that makes me come close to crying is 'Say Something' by Christina Aguilera, and a song that gives me chills every time I listen to it is 'The Call' by Regina Spektor."
In addition to "Scarborough Fair," Sofia, too, loves the Beatles, especially "Hey, Jude," and Led Zeppelin inspires her because they "sound cool!" The time-honored classic "You Are My Sunshine" makes her cry because someone in the song is taken away, but Sofia likes it because her mama sang it to her when she was little.
Our daughter, Katie, with much enthusiasm and detail, has chimed in on these questions, too! "The Grateful Dead has been a huge inspiration of making art. There are certain songs that I had heard before, but when heard at a specific place and time had a completely new and significant meaning to me. Usually when this happens, I am suddenly compelled to make artwork that is unusually good for my level of artistic talent (in my opinion). Some examples of songs that have inspired my art are 'The Music Never Stopped,' 'Terrapin Station' and 'Big River.' Music has inspired me to dance before, but my lack of dancing skills always halts those dreams pretty quickly. The only music that has ever inspired me so much, artistically, is the Dead. Other than that... Torch music from the '30s and '40s inspires me to sing, but I never do anything with that inspiration, so the Dead is one of the only inspirations I’ve ever acted on and has led to the actual production of results. Bob Dylan often seems like he is speaking to me, and I tend to have a fondness for voices that are unique in a completely normal way, like Bob’s and Petty’s and Neil Young’s. Mainly it’s the words from these artists that inspire me. My journals are filled with pieces of lyrics here and there that echoed in my head when I first heard them and begged to be documented in relation to whatever my current situation was when they first filled the spaces in my soul."
As for me, "Today" by John Denver will always hold a special place in my heart. First heard at Girl Scout camp, I learned to harmonize while singing along with others. I'm not really sure why I like this song so much, other than it is sweet, flows well and the lyrics speak to me to never forget "all the joy that is mine today." Interestingly enough, one of the lyrics is "I'll be a dandy and I'll be a rover, you'll know who I am by the song that I sing," and my grandma name turned out to be Dandy when my first grandchild was born. And, yes, I'm a singing Dandy! How prophetic was that! Even though it was one of Tom's "enhanced lyrics" (as my husband refers to his changing the words to songs) to a different song that gave me the name Dandy, I love that it's in this song, too. And there's even a Herman's Hermits song by that very title!
I heard once that everyone's body operates in a certain musical key. Well, if that's true, mine must be in whatever key "Dream a Little Dream of Me" is in. I am forever humming, whistling or singing this song. To prove this to my granddaughters once when they were visiting, we called their mama and asked, "What song is Dandy always singing?" She immediately said, "Dream a Little Dream of Me," to which I replied, "You see, your mom knows me very well, doesn't she?"
Inspiration strikes sometimes at quite inopportune times. Remember the tears running down Cher's face in the movie Moonstruck when she went to her first opera? Well, friends, take my advice. Listen to opera very carefully. I popped an opera CD into my car's player one day and discovered the astonishing beauty of "Nessun Dorma" from the opera Turandot. This is a quite well-known aria, but somehow during my years as a music major I'd never heard it. (Neither had I heard Pachelbel's "Canon in D" until years later and I have no idea how I missed that one in college!). Well, let me tell you, it touched the depths of my soul and I cried like a baby. While driving. On a extremely busy, fast-moving Atlanta highway. You try driving defensively while wiping away tears. Fortunately, no drivers — or cars — were harmed during the weeping of this woman.
Any music that gives me chills, makes me say WOW! or WHOA!, or has tears clouding my vision, well, that's the music that inspires me. Young artists who have amazing talent inspire me (Charlotte Church, Jackie Evancho, just to name two). Listening to the music in nature humbles me. Whatever makes me feel good about humanity and the world is indeed, my inspiration. As for how music has changed our lives, that's a subject for another post, so stay tuned!
Tom recalls as a child being stirred by the hope and idealism expressed in such songs as "The Impossible Dream," "Climb Every Mountain" and "You'll Never Walk Alone." Other songs that stop him dead in his tracks when they come on the radio include "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles, "In My Room" by the Beach Boys, "Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who and "Reason to Believe" by Kelly Willis, as well as the different song with the same title "Reason to Believe" by Rod Stewart. Why? He can't say why, for sure. He just knows they touch something in him.
What music inspires you and yours? We'd love to hear from you! While you listen to and share music with your children and grandchildren, remember, as Grampy always says,