Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Music Doth Soothe The Savage Soul"

My earliest memories of music was the sounds that emanated from a five feet tall wooden monstrosity that sat in prominence in our living room, a solid but ancient Motorola radio.  My folks were Okies and loved that four-four beat and the nasal twang of a Webb Pierce or Ernest Tubb singing of forsaken love and honky-tonk heartbreak. 

I couldn't relate to those singers but, between radio broadcasts of Roy Rodgers or Hoppalong Cassidy, an occasional song would stir my innocent soul.  The first singer that captured my attention was Hank Williams; his songs were melodious, or funny, or achingly sad, and, though I couldn't identify it then, I sensed a genuousness to ole Hank's music.  Hank would sing honky-tonk and you just knew he was enjoying himself in some Alabama beer joint off the main route someplace.  And when, he sang of heartbreak, my heart would ache a little myself.

A decade later I would join the army of teenagers walking around with a red plastic Japanese red transistor radio growing out of our ears.  While we all held vigil until Elvis could be released from the prison of military service, we listened to Roy Orbison and Ray Charles and Ricky Nelson and two stunning new sounds; the fantastic notes from Mo-Town and Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound".  You couldn't listen to that music without tapping your feet or rising into a mad dance of glee.   And when our young hearts were aching from unrecognized or forsaken or broken love, we could turn on the radio and listen to others singing out expressions of our angst.

As I grew older my appreciation for music expanded to other schools.  I found classical music to not be "long hair" at all and could be soothing or dramatic, by turns.  I learned to appreciate the sincerity expressed in good gospel music or the gutterly sexual joy or amplified torment expressed in jazz. 

Music is truly magical in that it is probably the strongest means to instantly bring back the memories of a particular time in your life.  I can hear a song from my youth and instantly be transported to time and place and circumstance!  Music is like little "place mats" that allow us to sit down to another place and time and sup from the richness of past. 

When music is meaningful to me I can feel a stirring of my soul, the chill bumps appear and I am in ecstasy!  And it can happen with all forms of music.  When Brian Wilson is singing "In My Room", I am in that teenage room with that old record player, a school pennant and a "Top 40" radio flyer pinned above the bed!  When I hear John Phillip Souza I am marching on that parade field on that USAF Officer's school graduation!  When I hear Canned Heat or The Greatful Dead or Big Brother and The Holding Company I am in a bunker in Vietnam.  Music is better than any time machine; it transports us to a meaningful past in the comfort of the present.

Music is universal but intensely personal.  While I can't stand today's music (just as our parents could not stand ours), I am absolutely sure that today's music is as meaningful to today's generation as ours is and was.

Our world is plagued by great troubles and great struggles and pain and heartbreak.  And yet, our world is blessed with great beauty as well; the painting arts, the written arts and yes, the beauty of music.  Art, and particularly music, becomes the means to express all the life experience.

We must truly give thanks to our creator for giving us the strength to endure all that life throws at us, while giving us the gifts of music and art to express our frustrations and the comfort that they provide.

gotta go now...Chuck Berry just came on...and I gotta get up and dance!


PammieJean said...

I had one of those red plastic transister radios. Tiny little thing. My first memory of listening to music was hearing Frankie Avalon sing Venus....then Fabian and Ed "Kookie" Burns. I don't remember my parents listening to music. That seems odd to me.

JustCommonSense said...

I too had one of those little Japanese plastic radios PammieJean. My family was huge with music. We often had the radio mom loved the country songs and I loved some of them too. Sure wish I had had an IPod when I was a teen!