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I got thoroughly hooked on Arahant’s Friday post about music that makes you want to dance. All it takes is one dance song, and I’m in that mindset; it’s not hard to conjure track after track to keep the party going. Not every song in the thread did it for me, and I’m sure some of mine would keep most folks in their seats, but it was still a great thread and a great Friday playlist.
Music can transport me in a hurry. It’s similar for other moods. I have go-to hymns for getting into a more spiritual frame of mind. K-Pop existed when I lived in Korea, but it’s more traditional Korean music that takes me back to the streets of Seoul. But when I think of Ireland, I’m more likely to think of the Saw Doctors or U2 than “Danny Boy” and trad. Blues standards can take me back to times I was feeling low and the songs that gave me comfort.
If I’m in a mood for crying? There are times; tears can be cathartic. Tears of joy and love can transport me to memories of dear friends and family. There are times tears of empathy spur us to action. If you hear a few bars of Sarah McLauchlan’s “In the Arms of an Angel” and don’t instantly picture sad rescue pets, I envy you. And music is a quick way to get there.
To get the ball rolling, I narrowed my list down to three.
In my senior year of high school, I sang in a madrigal choir. Our director, Mr. Schmitt, had been beloved at the school for its entire quarter-century existence; he was retiring at the end of the year, ending an era. For all the songs we sang together, it was Dan Fogelberg’s “Leader of the Band” that resonated most. Even then, it was hard to reach the end without crying. (Teenage hormones make crack seem as addictive as 1% milk.) He passed just two years later and the song took on even more poignant feelings. Listening to it takes me back to some of my fondest memories in high school and the people who made such a lasting impression.
“In the Arms of an Angel” is a cliche these days, but music as motivation has a long history. It can spur deeper empathy, open your eyes and heart to suffering you may have known previously only in the abstract. I’m not generally a fan of rage metal, but there’s something about Five Finger Death Punch that hits me in a visceral way. Their music video about the plight of homeless veterans is a gut punch. It wrenches the tears from me, and it’s hard not to be moved to donate after viewing.
The tabernacle in Provo, UT, was renovated when I lived there in the 1980s and 1990s and hosted not just religious services, but community events. One of the first was a concert featuring Reunion, consisting of original members of the 1960s pop sensation The Lettermen. I went, not knowing what to expect. It was a pleasant enough evening with a trio of singers my mom liked way back when but the finale blew me away. Jim Pike, the former lead singer, had left the group when his voice started giving out. For decades he wasn’t sure he’d ever sing again. That he was back was, for him, a true miracle, and one of his Lettermen favorites had taken on new meaning as he worked his way back to the music he loved. When he finished singing “The Impossible Dream,” with that bit of background, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Postscript: Not many years later, after I’d moved away, the Provo Tabernacle was gutted by a fire. It was devastating to the community and hurt my heart to see it when I returned for a visit. The exterior was largely intact, but the fire damage was obvious. The LDS church announced that the tabernacle would not just be restored, but would be turned into one of its functioning temples. Its original builders would be astounded to see it today – itself, but also so much more. Inside and out, it is a tribute to the community. And when I hear “The Impossible Dream,” I think not only of Jim Pike, but of the building where he shared his impossible dream with us, and its own impossible dream fulfilled. And my heart swells.
I could go on, but I’m more interested in the songs that bring you to tears, and why. And, is it something you seek out or are there songs you try to avoid because you’d rather not relive those memories? I imagine we’ll see more of the former, but I welcome either. Happy Monday!Published in