I need to confess… when I picked this topic, I thought it would be an easy one to write on. Then I sat down and realized that music was very important to me and out of respect and reverence, I needed to take my time and do this topic its justice. Albert Einstein summed it up well when he stated, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” I picked this topic to be a bit less serious and entertaining topic than my previous subject… but quickly realized what I always knew in my heart and mind… Music has been the one constant in my life and acts as the catalyst of my memories and brings them to life.
I will share something that my wife and kids knows only too well… no matter what I am doing, work, play, eating or sleeping, I have music playing (and usually very loud) all of the time. I wish I could point to a reason or an event as why this is the case, but I cannot. I do not come from a particularly musical family. I mean, I grew up in a house where the radio was always on, and my older brothers and sisters had varying tastes in music that contributed to my eclectic taste. I did take trumpet lessons for about a month when I was in fourth grade, but that never materialized. I am fortunate enough to have musically talented daughters who love music. Although my wife is a pure “80’s child” when it comes to music, she too is a lover of music. I have used music to help teach history lessons as a teacher for a short time in Troy High School. I have used music as a means to help raise money for those in need. So as you can see, music is that common link to all things important in my life, but allow Plato to summarize what I am trying to say in its proper perspective, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”
So, allow me to give you a flavor for the kind of music that I enjoy. It starts with the great classical composer, Gregorian Chants sung in Latin, 1950’s crooners, 1960’s British Invasion, 1970’s pop, jazz fusion like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago, 1980’s MTV age music, some rap music, and finally some country music. Again this is just a taste of the type of music I enjoy. Through my brothers (thanks Tom and Don), I developed an appreciation for bands and singers such as Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, B.B. King, Chicago, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Crosby Stills & Nash, and Led Zeppelin. My personal music library even includes such greats as Frank Sinatra, The Bee Gees, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Rod Stewart. It is funny, but when we get into these types of discussions on Facebook and other social media, people get pretty emotional about their musical tastes. I know one person for sure (NV) that I will be volleying back and forth with after he reads this post.
Now, to the heart of the matter… What makes a great song? Is it the lyrics, is it the rhythm or the beat, is the type or genre, or is it a combination of all of these things? Of course, I have an opinion and my opinion is… drumroll please… I am a lyrics guy mostly. Although you should never underestimate a stiff beat or a killer hook… the lyrics are the thing that usually attracts me to certain artist. I am in a constant state of utter amazement of the creative lyrics that many of these artists write. For me, it really starts with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Individually or collaboratively, the lyrics that these geniuses have etched on paper continue to define modern music as we know it. Another great songwriter that I know many of you will take issue with me on is Phil Collins. Many of you only hear to the songs played on the radio, but the artistry of words that this man can call his are nothing short of amazing. I’m not asking you to agree, but if you have a chance to listen to some of his lesser known songs, you may not skewer me too bad. Hannah Harrington in her book Saving June said that “It's just nice, I guess. Knowing that someone else can put into words what I feel. That there are people who have been through things worse than I have, and they come out on the other side okay. Not only that, but they made some kind of twisted, fucked-up sense of the completely senseless. They made it mean something. These songs tell me I'm not alone. If you look at it at that way, music... music can see you through anything.”
I would be remiss if I failed to mention other great song writers such as Carole King, Bernie Taupin, David Crosby, Barry Manilow (that’s right), Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, Peter Cetera, Freddy Mercury, Daryl Hall, Jim Croce, John Denver, Bob Dylan, Lionel Ritchie, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Jim Morrison, and so many more that I didn’t mention but are no less significant. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard one of these artist's/writer’s songs and wished I had written it myself. I wish my mind could only grasp the kind of talent that these people possess(ed). If you are not feeling what I am telling you… look at the lyrics to Let It Be (Paul McCartney) or Woman (John Lennon). And since I threw most of you into a loop with the mention of Phil Collins, listen to the lyrics of little known songs like You Know What I Mean (Face Value) or We Said Hello Goodbye (No Jacket Required). There are so many songs by Phil Collins/Genesis that I could list, but I urge you to explore on your own if you are so inclined.
For those of you that are attracted to the funky groove, hard hitting base, or wailing guitar, there is no shortage of songs that make you tap your foot or bang your head. I am not a fan of Heavy Metal Rock but one of sickest songs that I have ever heard is from the short-lived band Living Colour… Cult of Personality. That is one of those songs that just hit you right in your core… for me anyways. Other great songs that fit this bill are The Chain (Fleetwood Mac), 25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago), almost any Santana song, Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits), White Room (Clapton & Cream), Lucretia McEvil (Blood, Sweat and Tears), Bad to the Bone (George Thorogood) and so so so many more.
So, I hope this post took you down memory lane, if only for one fleeting moment. Music is to be cherished. I found that it is not appropriate to criticize other’s taste in music because that is like questioning their lives or their heritage. There are many that will read this that would never have the guts to say they like Barry Manilow or the Bee Gees… and you don’t have to. In the silence of your home, it’s you, the music and the memories that count, not what people think of your taste in music. I also want to issue you a challenge… next time you are in your car at a traffic light and you hear a John Denver tune that you really like… don’t roll up your window and turn the radio down so the person next to you can’t hear it… I challenge you to crank the music up, crank the window down and let that person next to you and the whole world know that you “Thank God you’re a Country Boy!” I will leave you with this final thought as eloquently stated by Johann Wolfgang van Goethe, “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” Happy Reading!