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Poetry we can sing to

Updated: Dec 31, 2019

My friend suggested I write a post about music.


Frankly, I wasn’t sure I could. I’ve had trouble listening to music lately. It was one of the good things I took away from a relationship that was otherwise pretty bad so if I’m honest, it hurts to hear a lot of what I used to enjoy.


But I spent the better part of a Saturday recently with headphones in dancing around my place and using my phone like a microphone. It seemed as though music might be back.


And I was glad because music just astounds me.


Being a writer myself, I’m infinitely fascinated by songwriters and their incredible ability to create compact, powerful stories set to instruments that are capable of becoming moments that fit into every corner of our lives. Can you imagine? Do you stop and think of this when you listen to music?


Do you pay attention to what it makes you feel? Shake your head and think, man what a voice? Close your eyes and lip sync so you can sound just like the artist?


Do you stop dead in your tracks to really hear that guitar? Play air drums? Do you let yourself be carried away by it?


Things come unbidden when we listen to music.


There’s the unwelcome nostalgia I’ve felt over the past year and a half for instance. Windows Are Rolled Down (Amos Lee) and Cover Me Up (Jason Isbell) were the happier beginning, while anything Ryan Adams was the somewhat turbulent middle. The end is invoked with Silver Springs (Fleetwood Mac).


Or the more enjoyable nostalgia of my first trip abroad - Cold Roses (Ryan Adams) in its entirety is London, Carolina in My Mind (James Taylor) is my Irish crush - my many drives to skiing - Windshield (Greensky Bluegrass), Baba Yaga (Futurebirds) - and feeling so lucky to live where I do - My Morning Jacket and Tedeschi Trucks Band live at Red Rocks.


We can also bring things to mind intentionally.


Like people. My dad is The Beatles, Elvis; my mom Peter, Paul, and Mary, The Beach Boys.


Phases of life. The first music I loved on my own, Garth Brooks, George Strait; the throwbacks of high school, Journey, REO Speedwagon; the vast and defining soundtrack of young adulthood, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alanis Morissette, Sublime, Dave Matthews Band; other stuff I’ve come to know as I’ve gotten a little older and more relaxed, Son Volt, Ray La Montagne, Chris Stapleton, Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, José González.


Moods. For anger I listen to, appropriately, Bullet With Butterfly Wings (The Smashing Pumpkins); for sadness, it’s Goddamn Lonely Love (Drive-By Truckers). If I want chills I listen to Brothers in Arms (Dire Straights); to feel pumped I turn on So Says I (The Shins). And to dance, it will always be as it always has been, California Love (2Pac, Roger, Dr. Dre).


When I want to sing at the top of my lungs, Born to Fly (Sara Evans). When I want to hear a voice that knocks me down, Midnight in Harlem (Tedeschi Trucks Band); one that’s gritty and raw, Hallelujah (Ryan Bingham). When I don’t need words, Sandusky (Uncle Tupelo).


What a journey music takes us on and my how I’ve missed it.


“Somewhere on a desert highway/ She rides a Harley-Davidson/ Her long blond hair/ flyin’ in the wind/ She’s been runnin’ half her life/ The chrome and steel she rides/ Collidin’ with/ the very air she breathes/ The air she breathes.” (Unknown Legend, Neil Young)


Poetry we can sing to.

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