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Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Music Is My Special Friend

To me music has always been a blessed gift. The only times in my life I can remember resisting music were in the shackles of deep depression. I guess when I felt the worst, I didn't want my friend to get anywhere close to me. Maybe I felt as if I was protecting it from my terrible feelings. Whatever the case, I do love music. Music stirs my senses, offers kernels of meaning, and lifts my spirit. Yes, I guess it makes me high.

I've often thought of my musical addiction. And, believe me, music, in my case, is addictive. I feel the need to possess it, listen to it, share it, collect it, and cherish it. I am the guy who has a bazillion CDs that is always looking for the better sound. My ears lap up music at every opportunity. I simply cannot be satiated -- the desire is too strong. One great song makes me want the high of more and more music.

Some people simply don't understand this fanatical draw towards music. Questions about its utility and about its logical usage abound: "How could you possibly listen to all of those CDs? What do you do, listen to hours of music every day? All recordings sound the same, why would you buy a new version of something you already have? Isn't this type of spending for music a silly expenditure? Can't you just listen to the radio?"

The answer to all the questions above is "no." The love of music is an obsession I feel I must feed. I don't live in a mansion, drive an expensive sports car, have a boat or a motorcycle (no expensive "man toys"), and I never hope to travel the world. I can live my life through music, recall my past through music, and, to a certain extent, see my future through music. Meaningful songs become dependable friends in my life.

I started this addiction as a kid well over fifty years ago with Hit Parade 45 singles that I used to listen to on a portable RCA record player. Along came Johnny Horton, Harry Belafonte, Perry Como, Tennessee Ernie Ford, the remnants of the big band era, the first smidgens of rock. I played my limited pile of records over and over while I dreamed of being older and affording a never-ending collection. I think I can still sing every word of each song I bought from that era.

I continued collecting music in a time when one chart contained country, rock, instrumental, vocals, movie themes, cross-over, blues, R&B, spoken word, and anything else that slid into public consumption. What a great time for music from all genres. I purchased 45s, albums (then available in stereo or mono), and 8 tracks. No male driver would be caught without an 8 track of Johnny Cash's "Live At Folsom Prison," Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced," Cream's "Disraeli Gears," and Bread's "Anthology" (reserved for romantic dates).

By the time I was 19, I was a veteran of the Folk era, of Rockabilly roots, of the American hippie sounds, and of the English Invasion. I had already seen Hendrix and the Doors in person. I had decorated my room with album covers. (What an absolutely dumb but sure way to ruin the great artwork) I was playing guitar in a rock band. And, I was constantly buying music. Needless to say, nothing could ease my consumptive musical appetite. I continues to crave music every day of my life.

I am pretty eclectic in my musical tastes. Rock, R&B, older Country, Folk, Americana, Country Rock, Blues, Reggae, Vocals, Big Band, Jazz, Standards -- I sample it all for my favorite songs. My theory is that a great song is timeless, no matter what style. Isn't "Moonlight Serenade" by Glenn Miller on par with "In My Life" by the Beatles or "Kiss From a Rose" by Seal?

I don't worry about the primary value of the recording -- whether it's the singer or the song. And, usually, I am attracted to the music first, then I contemplate the lyrics. Very seldom do I try to make sense of every aspect of a preferred recording; instead, I just listen to it and let the vibe of the music do its magic. I love songs of rhythm and songs of lyrical content.

The mood a song projects is very important to me. Yet,  I don't categorize songs by by simple descriptions of an emotional effect such as "sad" or "happy." The palate of emotional hues in songs is infinite. The emotional content of a great song is what it is. It needs no critic's defense or explanation.

The experience or idea contained in a song may be important. Then again, it may be foolish, depending upon the encounter. I mean I love "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, and I love "The River" by Bruce Springsteen. To me one song is nonsensical and the other deeply reflective. The important aspect of theme is that each song offers a fresh insight, whether that new view is scattered or chiseled.

I prefer to have a song choose me as if it knows important intimate feelings I have and as if it knows the personal history of my life. A favorite song perfectly fits me, and I long for that quality much like a lover longs for a mate. The power of its seduction should not be measured on any scale, rather it should be thoroughly explored and enjoyed.

If people are willing to choose a sensuous but healing addiction, I suggest they inject some music. The catalog and the knowledge awaiting the novice are endless. The cost can be pricey, but I always compare it to the cost of smoking. Enjoying the hobby of music is much less expensive than buying and smoking cigarettes and much better for your physical well being. I hope my music remains accessible to the end. No doubt, my musical obsession is alive and well today.

What Others Say

"It's really about living in your head... just looking out at the world, then going back into your head and tossing around a lot of ideas and coming out with something interesting to say." -Lucinda Williams
"Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it." -John Lennon

"Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid." -Frank Zappa
"I'm going to Graceland
For reasons I cannot explain
There's some part of me wants to see
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love, every ending
Or maybe there's no obligations now
Maybe I've a reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland" -Paul Simon

"The world is filled with people who are no longer needed. And who try to make slaves of all of us. And they have their music and we have ours. Theirs, the wasted songs of a superstitious nightmare. And without their music and ideological miscarriages to compare our songs of freedom to, we'd not have any opposite to compare music with --- and like the drifting wind, hitting against no obstacle, we'd never know its speed, its power...." -Woody Guthrie

"I like to sing ballads the way Eddie Fisher does and the way Perry Como does. But the way I'm singing now is what makes the money." -Elvis Presley
"This land is your land and this land is my land, sure, but the world is run by those that never listen to music anyway." -Bob Dylan

“I started recording because I was always complaining about the records that I was getting of my songs At least if I did them and messed them up, I wouldn't have anyone else to blame." -Randy Newman

"I'd have to say that my favorite thing is writing a song that really says how I feel, what I believe - and it even explains the world to myself better than I knew it." -Jackson Browne

"At that time, though, I wanted to get a song done by Elvis Presley. But as I was leaving after meeting with Elvis, (Presley's manager) Col. (Tom) Parker followed me to the door and said, 'I guess we won't be seeing you here again.' I said, 'Oh, really?' Parker wanted only songs to which he could get full publishing rights, and I didn't need Elvis to record 'MacArthur Park.' It was already a number one hit. Col. Parker was a crude man." -Jimmy Webb

“Beware the lollipop of mediocrity; lick it once and you'll suck forever.” -Brian Wilson 

"The song is the center; the song is the key. If you don't have a good song, you don't have anything by my value." -Carole King

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." -Berthold Auerbach

“The best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with.” -Bruce Springsteen

"Music to me is spontaneous, writing is spontaneous and it's all based on not trying to do it. From beginning to end, whether it's writing a song, or playing guitar, or a particular chord sequence, or blowing a horn, it's based on improvisation and spontaneity.  -Van Morrison

"For the music is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
Until the end" -Jim Morrison

"I don't know what you mean by 'country music.' I just make music the way I know how." -Hank Williams, Sr.

"Some songs have to do with my personal relationship with the Lord, others are about certain situations that I've gone through." -Smokey Robinson

“My thing was to out-Sly Sly Stone. Sly was definitely sly, and his sound was new, his grooves were incredible, he borrowed a lot from rock. He caught the psychedelic thing. He was bad. I could match him though, rhythm for rhythm, horn for horn.”  -Norman Whitfield

"My mother would cry about my blindness and the hopelessness of my ever seeing, but I told her I wasn't sad. I believed God had something for me to do." -Stevie Wonder

"Music happens to be an art form that transcends language." -Herbie Hancock

"There's an edge to real rock 'n' roll. It's all that matters." -Neil Young
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