Tribute to Al Jarreau

A song is much more than mere music. A three minute tune can capture the history of our lives, times of joy or sorrow. A song can elevate our souls and lift us up when we’re down, energize us when we feel we can’t go on. Jazz and pop singer, Al Jarreau does all of those things for me. May he sing on.

I first heard him in the 80’s, and I was blown away by his scat-singing, his smooth, flexible voice, and above all, the sheer passionate joy he conveyed in every note. I’d never heard anything like it in my life. As a young mother of three small kids, to play his music while going about the same old routine (diapering, cleaning, preparing meals, seeing to everyone else’s needs) probably saved my sanity more than once. As the kids got older, I enjoyed blowing their minds with scat-mad songs like “Roof Garden,” and the unique version of “My Favorite Things.” He came into my home, bringing his vocal playfulness, filling the rooms with  joy.

Later, when my father became ill and passed away,  and while another family member recovered from a life-threatening disease, Al Jarreau placed his hand upon my shoulder with his music, and in kindness and comfort lifted me up with hope. There is compassion in every note he sings, and his love for life is contagious.

He will live on and gift his afterlife with passion and joy, transporting us out of the darkness, lighting up the world with his brilliance, turning three minutes into musical magic. Sing on, Al. And thank you.

Ian Sings to Maggie: Mercy of the Moon

Maggie Wilson is a serious woman. She’s a midwife in the 18th Century, and all she’s ever known is Work and Duty. The first time she meets Ian, he’s singing. When they work together to save her sister, he’s singing. When she’s angry, he tries to calm her with his music, and makes her feel things she’s never felt before: Longing. Desire. And he makes her laugh. So to celebrate his ability to charm and uplift her, I give you a passage from Mercy of the Moon, book 1 in the Rhythm of the Moon seriesShe is extremely angry, and he is accompanying her on a walk:

“She felt like an instrument of the devil, full of poison and a heartbeat away from screaming like a harpy and clawing her way through town.

He held her upper arm firmly, and she felt his fingers through her cloak, cool, calm. A deep rumbling arose from his chest, and he began humming, then louder, to match the ferocity of the wind. That was the preamble, apparently, for suddenly he released her arm, leaped in front of her and began to sing.

‘”My woman, when she’s angry, puts Medusa’s hair to shame.

She rouses all my senses and sets my soul to flame.

When she unleashes fury, a virago gone insane,

I’m only very thankful I am not the one to blame.'”

                                                 COPYRIGHT ©2014 Jennifer Taylor

The song has the desired effect on Maggie. More on that tomorrow, when I talk about passion.

The Power of Music Amidst Chaos

Music has always been a comfort to me in times of stress. Remember when the only way you could listen to your favorite song was on the radio? There was only one radio station I listened to, the one that had Casey Kasem’s Top 40 every Saturday morning.

This was the 70’s. Either you listened to your song on the radio or you bought the single, or if you were really lucky, the whole album. We weren’t wealthy, and to buy an entire album was a huge deal. In those days, I spent a lot of time deciding which album would be mine.

I loved Elton John from the very beginning. Around 1972, I saved my allowance to buy his Friends album. I listened to it constantly. “Madman Across the Water” on Tumbleweed Connection made me cry. My friend Diane and I saw him in concert during his big eyeglasses stage. More than anything, I wanted to be one of his backup dancers. I still do.

Back then, I used music to escape the tumultuous world around me. There was a lot of unrest going on in the world, and although I lived a sheltered life, I could feel the waves of rebellion around me. I hid with my music and my books. Music was a way for me to manage my emotions. Remember the scene from Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, when they’re in the bus, mad at each other? Then someone plays “Tiny Dancer,” and they start singing? It was like that.

Nowadays, music continues to be a comfort. But it also enables me to make connections between the many songs in my head and what’s going on in the world. If a song is running through my mind constantly, it’s usually because it can be applied to what’s happening around me.

This last week, the Elton John song, “Madman Across the Water” is ever-present. The mood and melody of the song reflect the fear, hate, and uncertainty in the world, and the manipulation of those emotions by opportunistic individuals and groups vying for power. It’s gut-wrenching.

Why listen to a song if it makes me cry? Because it’s beautiful. Because it offers a release, as music always does. And most of all, because it reminds me that despite the upheaval in the world, there is beauty in the creation of melody and lyrics and the power they possess to move and uplift. And that gives me hope. I hope it does the same for you.

Does music move and inspire you? What do you listen to when you need shelter?