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?