Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Early Meaningful Songs

Sometime around when I was a teenager, the world of music exploded into meaning. Those were the days when you would lie around clutching the little sheet of lyrics that came with some albums (tapes in my case) and reading them while listening dreamily to the songs.

When I was younger, most songs were just music, or I understood them really superficially. They didn't touch me. (Of course, most of the songs I liked when I was little, e.g., Rod Stewart's "Do You Think I'm Sexy," didn't really merit careful listening anyway.)

But some songs always touched me. Here are some of the earliest ones I remember associating strong feelings with, in (subjectively) chronological order:

Song I Can't Remember!

There is some song from the late 70s that I think became popular again in a more recent decade (a cover version). I used to hear this as a little kid and I thought it was really creepy and it gave me chills, though I think it's a standard social movement kind of message. I want to say it has lyrics like "can you hear the sound?" or "see what's coming round." It's about something (spooky to me as a child) that is approaching (which I now think is just some kind of social change). Can someone remember/figure out what song this is?

"Total Eclipse of the Heart"
by Bonnie Tyler

After moving away from New Orleans after the fourth grade, I associated this song really strongly with Mrs. LeBlanc, my teacher in the previous two grades, who I had no further contact with. And sometimes with my mom or other adults. It seemed to capture the longing that I sometimes felt to be loved and attended to and understood (seen). I can still feel those old associations pretty keenly, though they seem a bit objectively ridiculous when I pay attention to the actual lyrics.

"The Rose" by Bette Midler

I saw this movie with my mom when it came out (1979, apparently) but it was a few years later (early middle school) that I started listening to the soundtrack of it. This song just seemed really meaningful and beautiful to me. Another song that struck me the same way (and thus gets an honorable mention here) around the same time was "Memory" from Cats (another soundtrack I owned; I later saw the musical live and it was disappointing).

"Things Can Only Get Better"
by Howard Jones

The line in here that goes, "And do you feel scared? I do, but I won't stop and falter," was incredibly meaningful to me around the middle school years. It still moves me and seems associated with my approach to relationships. (And wow, is that ever an 80's video!)

I want to say, I actually listened to a lot of meaningful songs as a little kid - Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel, and all of that kind of stuff - but most of the meanings didn't really speak to me even when I loved the songs. (Well, why would they, you know? "If you're offering me diamonds and rust, I've already paid" is not exactly something a kid would identify with.)

What are the earliest songs you remember having a lot of feeling about?

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