Music is what has saved me from myself over the years. There are too many songs to mention here but, I have found, the songs that mean the most to me come from my formative years. This has something to do with my mental and spiritual growth in establishing who I am, I guess.
Despite this, I’m lucky that I can still discover songs that I gravitate toward. It would be terrible to think that I couldn’t find emotional sustenance in a new song anymore.
A lot of my favorite songs are included on my favorite albums. This is an artifact of the time I came up in. Usually an album was cohesive and each cut was a part of the experience. Sometimes we would drop the needle on our favorite cut but, more often, we would listen to the album side taking things in and anticipating the song’s approach. It seemed like the best cuts were buried further in. At least for me.
For Haven’s Sake by Richie Havens from the album Richie Havens, 1983 (1969) is an existential song if I ever heard one. It fit in well with my thinking at the time — I was a teenager always preoccupied with mortality. I had a little coterie of friends who explored the underside of things and we would listen to this song so frequently that we could sing along. (Not a happy song for a sing along but it spoke to us.) It encapsulates the absurdity of life and how we discover and lose each other in the sands of time. The instrumentation and the mood of the song is very entrancing. I highly recommend listening to this with headphones. This is from the time when sound traveled around the room and from ear to ear.
Shouldn’t Have Took More Then You Gave by Dave Mason on Alone Together (1970). Alone Together is one of my favorite albums of all time. This particular song has the same element that grabs me on many of my favorite songs, a simple and profound lyric with a transcendent ending. The title really says it all, human selfishness can make a mess of things so beware. Things can be painful but we will get through it and move on. It was very relevant to the romantic relationship I was having at the time and continued to be a go to song in other failed relationships. Let’s face it, a good grieving song is essential to any breakup especially if it has an “I told you so” motif. Again, headphones recommended.
The entire album, Play (1999), by Moby. A very good friend made me a tape (yes, a cassette tape) of the CD when I was about to drive cross country to be with my dad after he had a stroke. This became the soundtrack to the drive. It was sort of like the Easy Rider of the late 90’s for me. The experience was heightened by the emotional state I was in. I particularly remember driving through California, Arizona and New Mexico where the landscape is so starkly beautiful that your senses are heightened. The road stretched out before me, the desert and the music sending shivers up my spine. I never remember feeling so sad and so exhilarated at the same time. Everloving captures this mood completely as it starts out very plaintively and then builds upon itself until things seem to be bursting at the seams.
What about you? What songs have shaped and sustained you over the years? I invite you to share them here.