The original title of this post was “Groove More, Gripe Less.” I’m reminded of my daughter telling me, “Mama, I like how your mood gets better when you listen to music.” [I mentioned this in a previous post.] I remember her words often, because she uttered them with such innocence, but they ring unequivocally true. Music can complement, elevate, validate, amplify, evoke, or pacify my feelings; sometimes it does all of these things at once.
It started with Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, and Olivia Newton-John. Their songs may have been the first I heard of English—my parents left Taiwan and landed in Mississippi in 1971. Come to think of it, country music lyrics are much easier to understand than other genres of songs in English… Anyway, from there my tastes migrated to include Sonny& Cher, John Denver, Michael Jackson, Def Leppard, Yanni, Sting, George Winston, Brad Paisley, Dixie Chicks, Barenaked Ladies, and now Bruno Mars and Rachel Platten.
We humans are so fortunate to have evolved the great frontal lobe, where reason and intellect reside. But even better, this protuberance behind the forehead retains intricate connections to the more primal, hindbrain parts, where emotion and memory live. So through music and art, we can integrate our experiences in as many unique ways as there are individuals. Thankfully also, music conveys the universal experiences that comprise our shared humanity. Music can move us at depths we normally take for granted, or don’t even know exist. There are happy songs, sad songs, angry songs, romantic songs, irreverent songs, and holy songs. There is space in the human journey for all of them and more.
I have anticipated this post all week, because I wanted to include a selection of my favorite pieces. I looked forward to sifting through them, knowing they would bring back sacred memories. Scrolling through Facebook during my A to Z writing breaks, I came across a post by friend and writer Wendy Toliver. She had what I interpret as a divine music moment and, luckily for us, she shared it:
“…Today, I am grateful for music. It touches our former selves as well as our current selves, and it helps us remember what is truly important, so that our futures can be all they should be. I am so grateful for the musicians who so eloquently weave notes and words together, who pluck our heartstrings, and make us want to better ourselves. I am so honored to have musicians in my family and friends so close they might as well be family. Thank you. I thank God for you.” How cosmic, that we both felt the keenness of music in coincidence. That’s the magic of it, after all.
Feeling all this Glory of Music, I decided writing about Griping would just be a downer. So let us get busy building our lyrical libraries—the bigger, broader, and more genres the better! I present the list below in no particular order. I thought of categorizing them—songs to move your body, songs to cook to, songs to write with—but I bet they speak to you very differently from how they speak to me, so I invite you to hear them in your own context. And please share your own favorites, too—what music moves you?
Get Your Groove On!
Days Like This, Van Morrison
Stand By You, Rachel Platten
Beer For My Horses, Toby Keith and Willie Nelson
Mom and the Radio, Bill Harley
Because We Can, Bon Jovi
The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, Gang Chen and Zhanhao He
Footloose, Kenny Loggins
Goodbye Montana, George Winston
New World Symphony, Antonin Dvorak
I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash
Runaway Baby, Bruno Mars
Who I Was Born To Be, Susan Boyle
Ode To Joy, Ludwid von Beethoeven
Rocky Mountain High, John Denver
Roar, Katy Perry
Ticks, Brad Paisley
No Place Like You, Maddie & Tae
Hallelujah Chorus, George Frideric Handel
Ming Tien Hue Gen Hao (Tomorrow will be even better)—The Chinese version of Band Aid and USA for Africa… and what the heck, let’s include those original recordings:
Do They Know It’s Christmas
We Are The World
PS I have shared the best recordings I could find of the songs—they’re all on YouTube. Please excuse any link glitches!