“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”Victor Hugo
From a young age, I was captivated by music. My church, in particular, was very musical, as most are. We had a very strong music program, especially for the children, with multiple youth choirs. Even as teenagers, we regularly sang songs in Latin. Our adult choir had a tradition of singing pieces from Handel’s Messiah for Christmas services. I even considered majoring in voice in college.
I learned early on to take solace in music. My first album? Wham. I was 9. Schooled by my brother as I grew older, he introduced me to the genre of alternative and indie rock. Not only did the music from these bands speak to me, liking these “cool” bands made me different. It distinguished me from the likes of the preppy New Kids on the Block crew. I happily embraced the outsider vibe, wearing lots of black and hanging out with the theater crew.
I quickly fell in love with The Smiths, REM, and The Cure. But The Smiths were my favorite. I followed Morrissey’s career into his solo days in the 90’s, a continuation of his broody lyrics and catchy tunes. I even saw him in concert in 1993. The magic of Morrissey’s lyrics combined with Johnny Marr’s guitar licks still speak to my very soul. As sad as it sounds, it made me feel better to know that I wasn’t the only unhappy person in this world, especially as a teenager.
“Music is like a drug, but there are no rehabilitation centres.”Morrissey
Of course, I’m disappointed and disturbed by Morrissey’s recent political leanings. I certainly don’t relish the rise in nationalism in America. I’m quite surprised that Morrissey has embraced the movement in the UK. I mean, he wrote the song “Interesting Drug,” with the lyrics, “There are some bad people on the right…” Sigh. I just don’t get it. But I also realize that he is an artist that the media loves to hate, so as much as I’ve researched his interviews, I can’t tell what comments are taken out of context. Regardless, wearing the logo of the nationalist party is pretty damning evidence of his support of the movement.
But then he also gave us this line from “I Know it’s Over”:
“It takes strength to be gentle and kind.”Morrissey
Like him or not, his practice of vegetarianism, later transitioning to vegan, is one of the things that inspired me to give up eating meat when I was 18. The more I read about the environmental impacts of industrial animal agriculture and what the animals actually go through in slaughter, the less I was willing to eat them. I haven’t had red meat or pork since 1993. I fully transitioned to vegan in 2017.
As a Virginian in college in the 90’s, I also fell in love with the Dave Matthew’s Band, which was born as a collaboration of musicians from Charlottesville. I love so much of their music, with layer upon layers of instruments, compelling lyrics, and catchy tunes. Their music is just so substantive and rich. I was lucky enough to see one of their New Year’s Eve shows at the Hampton Coliseum in 1995. My favorite song by them is “Grey Street.”
“There’s an emptiness inside her. And she’d do anything to fill it in. But all the colors mix together to grey. And it breaks her heart.”“Grey Street”-Dave Matthews Band
When I met my husband shortly after I started grad school, I loved the fact that he played guitar. It was a secret dream of mine to be lead singer in a rock band one day, and I had found my guitar player. His guitar skills were definitely a feature that wooed me. We also shared a love for Dave Matthews Band.
I’m proud to say that my husband and I have passed our love of music on to our daughters. They both like most of my “old” music, but it’s my younger daughter who has caught the bug. As I’m writing the first draft of this post, she is taking her first guitar lesson, having learned as much as she can from her dad. She is already pretty good at playing the guitar, and she has an amazing voice.
We had a heart to heart discussion around Thanksgiving about what she wants to do with her life. Her goal? To bring people joy. What a wonderful aspiration! I asked her if she wanted to help people manage their problems, etc, to make them happy? Nope. That’s not it. So, I told her, it’s art that really makes people happy. My daughter, it seems, is destined to be a performer. I can’t wait to take her to her first concert once Covid is over.
I’ve recently been helping my younger daughter acquire vinyl albums to add to her collection. It’s been great fun to search for these together! On a recent day trip to Charlottesville, we stopped at a used music store called Sidetracks. You always hope to find something special, but while flipping through the “collector’s bin,” I stumbled upon a 12” single of The Smiths “How Soon is Now,” with “Well I Wonder” and “Oscillate Wildly” on the B side. The owner of the store played it for me, and I actually welled up in tears. It did, indeed, come home with us.
Of course, I’m thrilled that as I’ve aged, the alternative genre has become more mainstream. I do enjoy some of the newer artists, but I will forever be tied to the music that brought me through my teenage and young adult years.
When I’m happy, I play music. When I’m sad, I play music. When I’m in my car, I sing. I cherish my CD collection. I adore live music, but don’t go to concerts as much as I’d like. I can’t run alone without playing music. I believe that when I’m old and feeble, living in a nursing home somewhere, I will still have cherished music from The Smiths, REM, and Dave Matthew’s Band to keep me company.
Is music a part of your soul as well? I find it an essential part of my spiritual wellness. What music speaks to you? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.