The Magic of Music

I really enjoy the Barenaked Ladies. I have a soft spot for cerebral songwriters whose songs have thoughtful and complicated lyrics. I like to tease out the meaning, understand the story and wonder what the artist was thinking during the song writing process. It plays to my love of words and language.

Even cooler, as BNL has aged I find that their lyrics continue to resonate with me. On every new album I can find at least one song that makes me smile and think, “Man, how did they get into my head?” On their last album, it was “Odds Are” an upbeat jam that pokes a bit of fun at the fear of low-probability, high-impact events. On their most recent album “Get Back up” is all about getting older and living through the speed bumps of life — we may not win, but that’s not the point. The album is called Silverball and the title song is an homage to pinball, the hobby my husband loves.

To me, the variety of music is a lot like literature. There isn’t a bad genre, even if there are some genres I like better than others. I may not lean toward rap, but I can appreciate it’s historical context and enjoy the elements of the best examples. Country music is not a favorite, but my toe taps just like the next person when a perfect line dancing song comes on the radio. I rarely listen to opera, but the strength of a soprano aria is bewitching. Whenever a new artist comes out, I try to be open to the possibility, even though at this age I find myself going more and more back to the artists that fit me best: smooth upbeat rockers who tell a story.

The truth is, all musicians are amazing to me. Music can instantly change my mood. Once I was in a deplorable mood, sniping at my husband and kids. My husband said, “Why don’t you take a drive?” Whatever, I thought resentfully, like that will do any good. But I listened and stomped out of the house seething. I jumped into my little red convertible and started driving. About 10 minutes in, Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ came on the radio. As I started singing out loud and tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, the pent up tension flowed away and I found myself in a new place. The underlying issues hadn’t changed one iota, but my ability to deal with them was 100% improved.

And, that’s not music my friends, that’s magic.

At various points of time in my life I have bemoaned my lack of music ability. During a summer as a camp counselor at Interlochen Arts Camp, I was surrounded by talented young people. Each of them had more talent and musical ability then than I would ever have and some of them were in elementary school. One of those young people later went on to found and lead an ensemble music company and win a prestigious national fellowship. Ahhh, the talent. Talent that you can demonstrate to adoring fans and family at a reunion. Talent that has the potential to take one cranky person and give them back their humanity.

So, I respect musicians and the talented people who create music and lyrics out of nothing but imagination. I appreciate it and I envy it. Most importantly, I pay for it because I recognize that every craftsman should be paid for his labor.

A dollar feels like so little to pay for a moment of magic.

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