Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Day 26: Songs That Make Me All Verklempt

Brenda Russell - "Piano in the Dark"

Russell’s voice is as heavy as velvet curtains from the very first note, and I can actually picture this fractured couple, wishing they could love each other again. “I cry just a little, when I think of lettin’ go…” Who hasn’t been there? And the fact that she can hear him playing the piano without really seeing him just gets to me.

Tom Petty - "Learning to Fly"

I wrote about this one when I first started the blog, on the eve of becoming a parent after a five-year quest. “Well, the good ol’ days/May not return/And the rocks might melt/And the sea may burn.” There’s a quiet acceptance for whatever the future brings, yet a sense of agency to the struggle: he’s going to learn to fly, it just won’t be easy.

Janet Jackson - "Control"

I believe Miss Janet and I were both having a coming-of-age moment when she released this song, and I still get a thrill of possibility when I hear her snarl “I’m in control/And I love it.” Yeah, baby. I love it, too.

The Beatles - "In My Life"

I put this in the dinner mix for our wedding reception. But even when I was 13, I felt the gravity of the sentiment: “Though I know I'll never lose affection/For people and things that went before/I know I'll often stop and think about them/In my life I love you more.” Nothing like aging a bit to really bring this one home.

Cat Stevens - "Two Fine People"

The instrumentals are so buoyant, it’s like the proclamation of love can’t be contained. It’s not a subtle song, but the ending is so simple and perfect: “Two fine people should love each other/Two fine people should help each other.” It just makes sense—a great message of hope.

Bonnie Raitt - "Nick of Time"

Beautiful and wistful, yet sung so intimately it’s like she and I are having coffee and she’s confiding me. “I see my folks, they’re getting on/And I watch their bodies change/I know they see the same in me/And it makes us both feel strange.” Some of the most natural, yet relatable, lyrics ever. The other verses work just as well.

Rent - "Seasons of Love”

I saw the movie Rent, and hated it. I never saw it on stage. Maybe I would have liked it better. The first time I heard this song was during a slide show at a wedding. Corny, I know, but I was sobbing. It still gets me every time. It was my favorite moment in the movie, and all they were doing was standing in a line on the stage. “525,600 minutes/How do you measure/A year in the life?” The song helps me to be grateful.

Louis Armstrong - "What a Wonderful World"

My dad and I danced to this one at my wedding, so I’m kinda biased, and yes, I know it’s a bit of a cliché. I don’t care, because it’s so lovely when he sings, “I see babies cry/I watch them grow/They’ll learn much more/Than I’ll ever know.” I can’t adequately describe the quality of his voice—luckily, lots of other people have already done it. Let’s not even discuss the Kenny G version—it’s a shanda, as my people would say.

Van Morrison - "Cleaning Windows"

This one reminds me of the year after college, when I wasn’t doing much, but life still had low stakes, so it didn’t matter. I was working at an ad agency—making copies—and the rest of the time I was dancing, dining, drinking and falling in love with Boston. I loved how he conveys the simple pleasures, “paris buns and lemonade,” books and music. “I’m happy cleaning windows”—I believe it. “I’m a working man in my prime.” Something seemed noble about that—I embraced it.

Elton John - "A Word in Spanish"

I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I think I understand the idea-- wanting to reach out and make someone understand exactly how you’re feeling, but not quite getting there. “And there's a word in Spanish I don't understand/But I heard it in a film one time spoken by the leading man/He said it with devotion, he sounded so sincere/And the words he spoke in Spanish brought the female lead to tears.” The melody is haunting—it makes me think of someone doing a melancholy dance around a dim room. Or maybe I’m just remembering me doing that when I first heard it.

Bruce Springsteen – “Tunnel of Love”

I’m especially touched by this one because I know that Bruce’s first marriage was cracking up when he wrote it, and he’d only been married a few months. Sometimes you mean well, but you make a mistake, so stand back: someone’s gonna get hurt. “Then the lights go out and it’s just the three of us/You, me and all that stuff we’re so scared of.” It’s got a powerful bass line, and what sounds like wailing in the background. No wonder—the song is about real pain.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

What a Wonderful World. How can you not want to cry?

Sweddy said...

Do you have tapes from your dj days? What did you play on the radio?

Type (little) a said...

WORD, at Tom Petty.

I get all choked up at "Don't Stop Believin"

Cheri said...

I liked Rent on stage (I haven't seen the movie), but I'm kinda a 'ho like that, I like almost anything on stage.

Now about Van Morrison and "Cleaning Windows," YES!!! Exactly. I lurve that song for just what you said. I lurve VM too. And his "Hymns to the Silence" is a CD to check out if you don't have it already.

Love your lists, dear Sam. WE'RE ALMOST DONE!

Caroline said...

There are some great songs there, and there are a few I don't believe I've heard. I'll have to go take a listen!

Mary and Paul said...

Love Petty and hate Kenny G.

Nice list!



p.s. My favorite Van Morrison song is Tupelo Honey, ever since I heard it on "Thirtysomething!"