Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Let the music speak for us....

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First a note to those who celebrate: I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. To those who don't, I hope you have a peaceful, untroubled day.

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This week's Roundtable is a discussion of music, life themes and the music that touches us most. (By the way, Julie, here's some Kajagoogoo.)

And two of my favorites from the 80s: Marillion and Tears for Fears :)

I'm also including this post in Wellness Wednesday because, after all, we all know that music helps make us better. While I'm too lazy to do the research, I know this is true.

It's been said that music tames the savage beast and I believe that to be completely true.

The music that has always spoken to me is the soft, the gentle, the folkish ~ the songs that speak for me, say things that matter when I don't have the words.

It can range from Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance" to Janis Ian's "At Seventeen". Music helped me process the things I saw around me when I was much younger, before I had my own voice. It helped me put it into words.

When Simon and Garfunkel sang "Sound of Silence", I felt as though those two men had reached inside me, read my mind, dove into the crevices and said what I couldn't say, particularly when I was so young and felt like no one in the world could possibly understand me. Adolescent angst was something near and dear to me.

I really did see myself as a tortured soul, another Jack Kerouac. And perhaps I was. It's a legitimate identity for many people.

Music helped us find each other, those of us who were on the sidelines, those of us who were alienated, those of us who never quite got caught up in the typical adolescent concerns. We discovered our commonalities and each other by listening to these songs that define so much of who we were as individuals and collectively. At least for those of us who grew up in the 50s, there were many topics we were not to discuss. Yet the "stuff" wilted and molded under the rugs. We learned at a young age that certain things were not to be said in polite company. The songs spoke for us.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Music pulled the rugs up and exposed the underbelly of a way of life that was supposed to be a fairy tale and was really not so much a nightmare a blissful banality. This one by Malvina Reynolds comes to mind:

Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of tickytacky
Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same
There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses all went to the university
Where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and there's lawyers, and business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp and then to the university
Where they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.


The nightmares came later. Phil Ochs spoke to the beginning of the end. In NYC, when a woman was brutally murdered on the street and no one responded, he wrote this song "A Small Circle of Friends".


Look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Riding down the highway, yes, my back is getting stiff
Thirteen cars are piled up, they're hanging on a cliff.
Maybe we should pull them back with our towing chain
But we gotta move and we might get sued and it looks like it's gonna rain
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Sweating in the ghetto with the colored and the poor
The rats have joined the babies who are sleeping on the floor
Now wouldn't it be a riot if they really blew their tops?
But they got too much already and besides we got the cops
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Oh there's a dirty paper using sex to make a sale
The Supreme Court was so upset, they sent him off to jail.
Maybe we should help the fiend and take away his fine.
But we're busy reading Playboy and the Sunday New York Times
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer,
But a friend of ours was captured and they gave him thirty years
Maybe we should raise our voices, ask somebody why
But demonstrations are a drag, besides we're much too high
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Oh look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Down in Santiago where they took away our mines
We cut off all their money so they robbed the storehouse blind
Now maybe we should ask some questions, maybe shed a tear
But I bet you a copper penny, it cannot happen here
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Each generation has its songs, the ones that take us back, remind us of the social changes that took place when we were most open to thinking, pondering and experiencing.

I've often thought historians should pay a lot more attention to music since it typically chronicles a culture more effectively than any academic tome. It journals what's important in the day to day lives of ordinary people, what a people have been through, where we're all going.

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27 comments:

Emily R said...

There definitely are music historians, and I think they are about the coolest scholars out there. Because, you are right, it talks of our time. (Like about disturbing a Monopoly game with a violent crime...)

painted maypole said...

a history through music would be fascinating.

thank you for sharing some of the songs that have moved you.

TwoSquareMeals said...

"Music helped us find each other, those of us who were on the sidelines, those of us who were alienated, those of us who never quite got caught up in the typical adolescent concerns. We discovered our commonalities and each other by listening to these songs that define so much of who we were as individuals and collectively."

I grew up in the late 80's and early 90's, but this was still so true for me. Funny, it was the music of the 60's that helped me and my friends to find each other. Sometimes I wonder what my generation produced that was close to that...

QT said...

What a great post Chani. Thank you for sharing some of your inspirations.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Your statement that historians should pay more attention to music as a chronicler of any era makes me shout "hurrah!!" inside my head. I couldn't agree more.

I remember vividly the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, NY, stabbed to death in the courtyard of a giant apartment complex while many people watched from the safety of their windows and no one thought to call 911.

Such indifference to the suffering of others was horrifying then, but we have come such a long way as a society that now it is often the norm.

In many important ways, we are regressing.

When I was a teenager, I was positive that music kept me sane. It was the one thing I could count on to show me that I was not really alone in the world, that others like me were out there, even if I didn't know them.

Julie Pippert said...

Chani, what an AWESOME post. Yes, music gives us a voice, and helps us process. It provides atmosphere and can validate or help us recuperate.

It is such a reflection of time, too, not just time passing but the signs of the times, KWIM.

You so nailed what music is to me here.

And the sideline thing ...absolutely.

One thing that makes me think of is the rise of music that was about homosexuality. In college a number of homosexual friends said it took away loneliness to hear famous and popular singers' ballads about being gay, the feelings of it, and so forth. I think it passed a message to the rest of us, too.

It's a powerful and awesome medium and that's one more reason I am SICK it is being eliminated from schools.

Julie
Using My Words

Ian Lidster said...

You paid homage to the late-lamented and ever-so-troubled Phil Ochs. So few sat back and paid attention to him because it was all about Dylan at the time.
Have you heard 'Pretty Smart on My Part'? It's brilliant, terribly funny and terribly black in its humor.
And, you and my wife and Tears for Fears.
Great psot.

Janet said...

I love when I really hear a song I have listened to many times. When I finally hear and process the lyrics it can be deeply moving.

Nice post, Chani.

flutter said...

blessings to you.

jen said...

Simon and Garfunkel, I am a rock - moved me in unspeakable ways.

Happy blessings tomorrow.

Anvilcloud said...

Tried to leave a comment and the box shifted over so I could no longer see it or post. Basically, it about how great S&G were.

ThomasLB said...

A hundred years from now (if earth still sustains human life) history class is going to be a much more absorbing experience than it was for us.

We had to make do with dry text and black-and-white photographs. Future generations will see our movies, hear our songs, watch our newscasts, read our blogs...

slouching mom said...

This was a beautiful, beautiful post, Chani. You nailed it, over and over again.

(And I loved learning what your music touchpoints are/were.)

crazymumma said...

Tonight I have been trying to learn the opening riff to ACDC's Highway to Hell.

As far as I am concerned a permanent anthem for those thinking outside the box.

mitzh said...

More blessings your way, Chani...

Peter said...

Nice to see a Phil Ochs mention. And Ian, it's great that you see the humor in "Pretty Smart on My Part" -- the FBI didn't, calling it a "threat against the President."

Mariposa Speaks said...

Hi there...we share the same view for Sound of Silence...and while others may find comfort and can escape through sleep...for me it's music...thanks for sharing this...

happy thanksgiving!

seventh sister said...

Great picks, especially malvina and phil

Molly said...

The Sound of Silence is one of my favourites too. Also Eleanor Rigby, and The Fool On The Hill, by the Beatles. We're lucky in that most everyone has access to all kinds of music these days. When I was growing up, very few people I knew had a record player. There was one at school. The local music teacher had one, and Roddy, the oddball, only child down the road from us had one. He used to let us come and listen to it sometimes.... With a little luck you could listen to pop music on Radio Luxembourg,IF your parents weren't listening to the news or some other program. Now the music of the whole world is available to us all. Very thoughtful post Chani---as usual!

Snoskred said...

Crazymumma mentioned ACDC above - I'm a huge fan of theirs! But not the current version of the band, the older version with Bon Scott who unfortunately died in 1980.

ACDC is great music to drive to.

I love Tears For Fears too - I love such a diverse range of music.

Apologies for my absence, this week has been crazy insane.

Cheers!
Snoskred
www.snoskred.org

Angela said...

Hooray for music! I hope your day is blessed. That *every* day is blessed. Love and light, ~ Angela

storyteller said...

Wow ... you do have a way of hitting the nail on the head Chani. Impressive post ... intriguing walk down memory lane and fascinating catalyst to my own mind. I've walked with your words and my own recollections for about a day before deciding to leave a comment. I've mentioned specific songs & their significance in my Blog posts (and comments elsewhere) but the one in my mind as I type was the day I heard Bette Midler sing "God is watching us ... from a distance" as I drove home from work. Whew!

Then there's "Starry starry night" and "The day the music died" ... but I'll stop here because I'm sure we all have such vivid memories since music "resonates" in our lives.
Hugs and blessings,

hele said...

I first heard the tickytacky song when I was seven. It struck a fear of surburbia into my heart that has never left.

I love haunting music that lures my soul back for a couple of minutes to the place it came from.

MsLittlePea said...

You sure do know how to pull at my heartstrings. This is so true. If I hear a certain song I can close my eyes and I'm right back in a moment from my past. I've always loved music from the 60s and 70s because they spoke to people. There isn't enough music today that says something other than,"shake your ass bitch." Sad.

Sober Briquette said...

I have recently watched two movies about song writing, and although the movies were unremarkable, the idea of writing lyrics was inspiring. (They made it look so easy.)

Tabba said...

very interesting post....i smiled as I read of Marillion as my dad loves that band.
I've never heard anyone else speak of them before....

AmyTree said...

Yes!!! Have you ever heard the album Free to Be You and Me? I had it on tape as a kid and hunted it down again a year or so ago, trying to fill in the words I couldn't remember (the melodies always remain). It is amazing - I hadn't heard it for probably 20 years and couldn't tell you what the songs were called, but when they played I could still sing along, pulling lyrics out of the ether. It's a glorious album, full of songs and spoken word pieces.
I class Little Boxes in the same section of my brain - heard it as a kid and then not again for a long time - it makes me happy to hear again...