Songs That Stay With Us

The other day I decided to take myself to a movie; one that I knew the Crankee Yankee wouldn’t much care for, so I chose the new Pixar animated film, “Inside Out.” To summarize, it was all about the voices in our heads that rule our emotions. While I enjoyed the movie, what I liked best was the opening five minute short called “Lava.”

It was a beautiful little five minute song about a lonely volcano in the middle of the ocean, wishing for someone to love. He sang his wistful song for years and years, never knowing that the love of his life was actually forming in the seabed below. This sweet song, sung by Kuana Torres Kahele, Napua Greig and James Ford Murphy (the composer) just captured my heart. I fell in love with it, and when I got home, I found the lyrics and ukulele chords, then sat right down and played and sang it.

There are some songs that really touch our hearts and spirits as nothing else can. Some songs just nestle into our hearts and each time we hear or remember them, we are lifted up. For me, our national anthem brings me to my knees–I realize while I am writing this how awfully corny this sounds, but there it is, and I can’t help weeping when I hear it. Why? Because all that is precious to me about this country comes to my mind, and all the sacrifice it took to become the nation that we are.

Some songs take us back to a certain time and place, too. When I hear the Rolling Stones’ “Honky-Tonk Woman,” I am right back in college, dancing in my bare feet with friends. Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” takes me my dorm room, musing over “what if” stories with a couple of earnest girls who had provided a bottle of Lancers for the evening. We were so young then! That song brings back the old innocence and faith we shared at that time–how bittersweet that time was!

When I was in my early teens, I was captivated by the folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary. In fact, they were the reason I started playing guitar in the first place, then moved on to banjo and later, ukulele. Some of those folk songs were anthems of change, and hearing them for the first time, I could feel the axis of my world shift to larger issues than what color tights I would wear to school the next day. Later on, I discovered Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and fell deeply in love with the witty patter. I would listen to my G&S records over and over again, singing along with them and pretending that I was on stage performing.

Later on I grew to love opera, especially the more flamboyant ones such as La Boheme, La Traviatta, Madama Butterfly, and especially Aida. Those beautifully trained voices soared me up out of my world and into another, grander more baroque one where people strode around in lavish costumes, singing vibrantly, and with a huge chorus behind them. I also fell for classical music and have never fallen out of love with either of these venues. Songs are another way to time-travel. Just hearing the triumphal march from Aida brings back the thrill of hearing it the first time.

So, what songs fill your hearts with joy? Where do those songs take you? Who were you when you first heard those songs? How did they change your life? Just now, that line from the “Lava” song is playing in my head, especially the refrain:

“I have a dream.
I hope it will come true.
You are here with me.
And I am here with you.
I wish that the earth, sea, and sky up above-a
Would send me someone to *lava.”

*Lava = love.

 

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