The Power of a Song

I listen to music like I’m on a mission. It’s never been about just enjoying a song. Or even a matter of having some nice background noise while I went about whatever. I needed to find the right song for the right moment, and about the time I found it, I went looking for another. I’m not sure if there is a “perfect” song, so much as there’s just been good songs for certain moments of my life, but nevertheless I definitely operate like I’m in search of that one masterpiece.

Maybe that’s because during some of the darkest moments of my life, one song or another wasn’t just some melody that spoke to my heart. It was a person with artistic talent who (coincidentally, using a melody that spoke to my heart) had shared in a similar experience as me. It was empathy, and knowing there was another person out there who “got” me and “got” how hard whatever we were enduring was, brought about just the comfort I’d been searching for. In that sense, to me, music is relational. It connects us not only to an artist we don’t even know but to others who may also find solace in whatever that artist has offered and placed on the table for our consideration.

Nearly a decade ago, a dear friend of mine was having a rough day as she was remembering a dear friend of hers, a young man named Cory, who had driven to an empty field and shot himself ending his life while he listened to the Counting Crows “Round Here” on repeat. Over the years, I’ve played that song again and again and always think of him, this guy I never knew, sitting there in his car absorbing that song. Over the years, I’ve had my own moments where I, too, put a song on repeat and only heard despair, and it’s made me think a lot about the power of a song. I sometimes wonder how different for Cory things could’ve been had someone been there, like a ghost, to push “next” on the CD Player. Or what it must’ve been for him to have come to that one song and felt he’d heard all the music he could, that there was nothing else to hear. Wherever he is, I like to think there’s a sweeter tune on repeat, but not stuck there.

Lately, coinciding with reading some of the theologian Paul Tillich, some of which I’ve had to read again and again (not only because I didn’t understand it fully the first time but also because I wanted to make sure I had absorbed the richness of everything he was saying), I’ve been listening to the new Damien Rice album, as well. Rice’s new album is a collection of the kind of shear honesty that belts out loudly and proudly, “Here I am. Take me as I am. I know you can.” That’s also at the core of what I read in Tillich who believes, in spite of all that makes us unacceptable – to ourselves, to the world – that there’s this invitation on the table that says, “Come, no matter what, just come to the table. You are welcome.” Tillich words it much more beautifully but perhaps not as beautifully as Damien in his song, Trusty and True. I can’t share that song with Cory, who I never knew, but in one way or another, getting myself and those I love to click “next” on the MP3 player to hear something new, perhaps an invitation like the one Damien sings so heart-fully, is all I really want to do with my life. I’ll end this one with the song and the lyrics, which say much more than this blog ever could:

We’ve wanted to be trusty and true,
but feathers fell from our wings,
and we’ve wanted to be worthy of you,
but weather rained on our dreams,
and we can’t take back what is done, what is past
so fellahs lay down your fears,
cause we can’t take back what is done, what is past
so let us start from here,
cause we never wanted to be lusty or lewd,
nor tethered to prudish strings,
and we never wanted to be jealously tuned,
nor withered into ugly things,
but we can’t take back what is done, what is past
so fellahs lay down your spears,
cause we can’t take back what is done, what is past
so let us start from here,
and if all that you are is not all you desire,
then Come,
Come, come along, come with fear, come with love
Come however you are, just come,
Come alone, come with friends, come with foes,
Come however you are, just come,
Come along, come with me, and let go,
Come however you are, just come,
Come along, come so carefully close,
Come however you are, just come,
Come, come along, come with sorrows and songs,
Come however you are, just come
Come along, come let yourself be wrong,
Come however you are,
Just come.

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