Our lives are in some ways like a long series of novels or television shows that revolve around a few enduring characters and a greater number of interchanging ones as we move from one stage of life to another.
We glide or trudge or plow along through the various phases with music playing in the background. Whether we’re “struggling for the legal tender” as Jackson Browne sang or “singin’ and dancin’ in the rain” a la Gene Kelly or we’re “on the road again” with Willie Nelson, there’s often music there energizing us, uplifting us or giving us comfort when we really need it.
Life is a Series
One of my earlier romances, when I was 22, wasn’t earthshaking on the world stage, but it was in my world. I’m referencing it rather than the one that become The One because of its various elements that had a “recipe” (Jimmy Webb/MacArthur Park) for drama perhaps unlike any other I’ve known.
At the time, I was a lumber handler at a sawmill while I moonlighted as a long-haired, hard-partying wannabe writer and musician. I was a young dreamer with a low responsibility level whose ambition was dulled by drugs and alcohol. I wanted a relationship badly, though, when I was introduced to Carey (as I will call her).
In my oft-altered states, I was euphorically listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Cat Stevens, Moody Blues and, of course, The Beatles. The music and the messages fueled my vision of elevated states of spirituality, of expanded awareness to which I attached central importance.
Carey was an attractive 24 year-old widow with two preschool children. Her husband had died in a horrendous car accident that almost took Carey’s life as well. She was the daughter of a wealthy real estate broker who had a thin veneer of jovial camaraderie that possibly hid mean-spirited humor. While Carey was intelligent and charming in a mildly cynical sort of way, she was probably influenced by her ambitious father for whom she worked as a realtor with high energy and dedication. Her hard work had earned her a lovely house in a woodsy setting outside town.
There was an evening when one of my best friends had his first date with the love of his life. They came over to Carey’s house after a movie or something. He would always have me play my guitar and sing some of my songs when we partied. These became part of the soundtrack of our relationship, as I usually had my guitar with me. Not that she loved my music, but I think she thought it was okay.
One night when we went out in her sharp new Chevy Malibu, we were wearing the aura of young love, talking a lot, sharing likes and dislikes. She had been hearing plenty of my favorite music, so naturally she pulled out a tape that was in her car. “Do you like Barbra Streisand?” She held up the Stoney End album.
I was lukewarm on Barbra, but I probably said something like, “Not what I’ve been listening to, but let’s hear it.” We did and I found it surprisingly palatable. I think she played it for me a few more times when we were in her car because I became quite familiar with it. It remains as a pleasant memory of my time with her.
After a couple months or so, she started talking marriage. I wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea, but I very much wanted to be with her and we put it in our future. There were problems, though. Her children were pretty rowdy and had no respect for me. Carey was mature, strong-willed and relatively materialistic. I was her laid back hippie boyfriend, too immature to build an empire with her. One symbol of our basic difference was that I drove an old, big boat of a Chrysler. She wanted me to buy a Datsun, a Japanese car of all things. Funny aside, though, by the end of the decade I bought a new Datsun.
More importantly, Carey was on an emotional roller-coaster. She was going through very tough times, still recovering from the loss of her husband. She was a young, newly single mother raising and supporting two high-energy children. Hard for my even-keeled personality to grasp. She would sink into a dark place off and on. I probably wasn’t much help with my music and hippie views.
We had a four-month run, rocky for much of the time. After one difficult day, Carey said, “I think we should separate for a while. I need to think about what we should do.”
I went along with this and told her, “Fine. Let me know what you decide.”
I thought I could be cool, but the next week or so was unbearable. Each day was worse than the last as I awaited a call.
I composed a couple songs during my exile. One called You’re Not Here bemoaned how we lost our way. The other, Separation Blues, brought out the ache I felt in my heart. Here’s one verse and a chorus.
The minutes are becomin’ hours. It’s gettin’ harder all the time. I’ve gotta see you soon, I’ll tell ya, or I’ll lose my mind. O why don’t you come to me and one we’ll be and we’ll be free. O why don’t you let me know, if only because I love you so.
I finally caved and called her. She wasn’t ready and my pressure pushed her into saying we should just end it.
My heart was broken. I cried hard for a while, then took a drive out on a small country road. I was normally a slow driver, but this particular day I drove in a rage at 80 or 90 MPH while rock music blared on the radio.
One of the best things to come from our relationship was an introduction through Carey to a couple that became treasured friends of mine for many years. I was best man at their wedding. The man of the pair was an excellent guitarist and he helped me record the first collection of my best original songs. Music was a large part of our friendship. They eventually split, but the woman remains a dear friend to this day and is one of my favorite people.
Music is Magic
Whatever we’re going through, good times or bad, music is always there for us to affirm our joy and ease our pain or provide whatever it is we need at the time. I’ll leave you with the words of Guy Gabriel, singer/songwriter and leader of Kindred Spirits, a group I’m proud to play with on a regular basis. These are some of the words of his song, Music is Magic.
It can heal you It can soothe you It can rock you It can move you And change the way you feel With a single note It can teach you It can guide you It can reach you It can remind you And let you know things you’ve never, ever known
Change your life in the blink of an eye Music is magic Take you higher and higher Make you feel so inspired
It can shake you It can release you It can wake you It can free you And get you out of yourself For a magical time It can hold you It can change you It can mold you It can rearrange you And suspend all time and space for a little while
Music is magic Change your life in a wave of the hand Saves us from what’s tragic It’s there at your command Bring you to the promised land
From hip hop to opera, you should embrace the music that sings to you. It will then embrace you.