Music has played a significant part in the fabric of my life. In an odd way, I fully believe that music helps shape us.
Granted, I did not grow up with a musician’s (live) influence. The musical influences in my young life came from a stereo that doubled as a furniture piece and a dial radio in a 1967 Super Beetle. The television was also a place where we would retreat for musical entertainment. The Donny and Marie Show, Sonny and Cher, American Bandstand, even Soul Train (always loved Don Cornelius) were popular images from our television set often. That was a day and age that lacked the title ‘reality TV,’ but leaned strongly on the ‘variety show.’ It was indeed an indescribable era, which I am grateful is still embedded in my memory. The music in our home ranged (greatly) in variety. Music from Motown, to Broadway, a little Waylon Jennings, Liza, Simon and Garfunkel, KC and the Sunshine Band, the Eagles, it all came from that piece of furniture. In the confines of my bedroom I would ‘spin’ the likes of Kristy and Jimmy McNichol, Shawn Cassidy, Kiss and lots of soundtracks.
Yes, I had a lot of moments channeling my inner Sandy from Grease lip syncing “You’re the One that I Want,” who didn’t?
Thinking back I think that would be right around the time/age, when I began truly listening to lyrics and not just singing words.
The 1970s Bill Withers classic, Lean on Me, is perhaps one of the first songs to strike emotion in my once young heart. It was in its own way, our bohemian family anthem. Many a summer day was spent loaded in my mom’s VW Beetle. My three older cousins, myself and our two single moms headed to a summer family spot all singing in full voice.
Music brings with it great and sometimes emotional memories. This in and of itself is an amazing gift.
What’s truly interesting, from an analytical sense is how differently we each hear music. The notes, the rhythm, the lyrics one takes in are no different. However, the ear, the receiver, the ‘listener’ does not always interpret the words or the meaning the same.
Sure there is the misunderstood word, that’s normal. I still remember a childhood friend singing a Prince classic as “Pay the rent collect,” versus the appropriate “Little red corvette.” We still laugh about that one.
Music … lyrics are their own form of poetry, after all. It’s often how we communicate our love for another in a memorable setting. Weddings and funerals are great for this. The ceremonial first dance song of the bride and groom, the father daughter (in my case mother daughter) dance, video montages celebrating lives joined or ones lived. Musical artists give us a plethora of opportunity to take the words they’ve shared and use them in our own appropriate setting.
Recently I had a friend share a video clip of a young girl with autism who loved Katy Perry. The young lady’s story in and of itself (without music) was inspiring. At its conclusion she performed a Perry song on piano as the pop star sang along to the accompaniment. The song was “Firework.”
Admittedly this is a song I have listened to more times than I care to share. It is a favorite of the ‘Bieber Fever’ five-year-old I share my home with. Within the text of the song Perry sings, “Do you ever feel already buried deep? Six feet under screams, but no one seems to hear a thing. Do you know that there’s still a chance for you. ‘Cause there’s a spark in you?”
As I watched this autistic girl play and I listened to these profound words, I heard them so very differently. Personally, I have a very big soft spot in my heart for these children. A classification of geniuses (in my opinion) so misunderstood by so many. Early life experience brought me into their graces and I have been changed to a degree ever since.
Now, one week later that song prompts tears (even while running).
Is that the way in which Perry intended those words to be written and heard? Probably not and therein lies the beauty.
What was once a pop hit, lip synced by young girls in bedrooms and on playgrounds was transformed by an autistic girl to an anthem of sorts.
Lessons are always waiting to be learned, after all. Even in as simple of a place as a pop song.
Teresa Hammond is circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.