SING IT, SISTER!

 

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SING IT, SISTERS!

Music has always been a healing balm for me. Being the word nerd that I am, as well as a writer, it shouldn’t surprise you to know I listen closely to song lyrics. They seem to jump out at me at the perfect times, forming soundtracks to the events of my life.

Words have undeniable power, but music unites us in a way that mere words cannot. Certain songs can take each of us back in time to a specific place and time, and can bring back memories for better or worse, as if we are still there.

Song titles and lyrics can tell the story of those times, both good and bad.

The coronavirus pandemic seems to have its own soundtrack. So many song titles have heightened meaning at a time like this. Whether it is a country song lamenting lost love, or a classic ballad explaining the pain of life, it seems that the pain of adversity is understood, and thereby lessened with music. In terms of pain and tough times, this time of pandemic is no different than love lost, personal struggles or, perhaps as a country song may suggest, losing one’s girlfriend, truck or freedom while in jail.

As I typically do, I turned to my sisters for their input for my weekly post. Each of us has insight that the others don’t have, and this week was no different.

As I am, Mom was a “Fanilow.” Suzanne recalled that two of Mom’s favorite Barry Manilow songs were “Looks Like We Made It,” and “I Made It Through the Rain.” I didn’t recall this, but Suzanne reports that Mom never forgot “I Made It Through the Rain” playing when the Iran hostages got off the plane in the United States in 1981 after 444 days in captivity.

In time, the entire world will make it through the rain that coronavirus is raining down upon us. Then, Fanilow or not, we can all sing “I made it through the rain.”

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There’s nobody on the road, nobody on the beach. Empty lakes, empty streets. It’s a bit strange when you’re out and about these days, and none of us had better be out and about for anything but essential travel. That’s the new normal, and we all need to accept it as reality for a while. I’ve been out for a few days of work lately, and besides the grocery store, that’s it. There are times I feel all revved up and no place to go, but between books, puzzles, writing, more walking and watching season three of Ozark, I’ve found alternate outlets for that energy that normally would have given me someplace to go.

Nobody told me there’d be days like these, strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama. Whoa.

I have been calling upon my small army of friends lately, too. I really thought I was doing okay, but the surreal nature of this strange new world finally caught up with me after one of my friends confided she was struggling with the reality of it all. I let myself go there, too.

Oh, I can’t take no more…so I sit down and I cry too.

And then I felt better. I simply needed to let it out, and go on. If you feel the need, don’t hesitate to let it out. You will probably feel better after, too.   We’re all scared and confused humans, and we all need the human touch. It’s just that we can’t touch this; we shouldn’t be reaching out to touch anyone right now.

Better not do any lovin’ touchin’ squeezin’ with anyone besides your main squeeze right now. Just a little of that human touch is all it takes to endanger someone else’s health.

There is a time you may embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. This would be the time to refrain.

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Back to the sisters. They both offered their playlists, and here is Suzanne’s:

*Don’t Stand So Close To Me

*Dancin’ With Myself

*I Will Survive

*Reunited

*Stayin’ Alive

*What A Fool Believes

*How Will I Know?

*Stop! In the Name of Love

*Happy Together

*Alone Again (Naturally)

And Gail’s list:

*Livin’ on a Prayer

*It’s a Heartache

*Hold On

*Under Pressure

*In The Air Tonight

*I’m a Believer

*God Only Knows

*Come Together

*Gimme Shelter

*It’s the End of the World (as we know it, and I feel fine.)

Coincidentally, both of them offered another title—the same title—that was simply too inappropriate to print. Imagine that.

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Don’t worry mother, it’ll be alright. Don’t worry sister, say your prayers and sleep tight. This phenomenally talented singer and songwriter goes on to offer profound lyrics that touched me even before this international crisis: “Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery.

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It is a strange, but brave new world we are forging our way through. I’m not even rationing paper towels anymore. I had a good supply laid in before all this started, and now I am using them liberally, and throwing them away. You probably wouldn’t even recognize me anymore.  If you recall from Waste Not, Want Not (January 14, 2018), paper towels are like gold in my house. Not anymore.

Many other things will change. Most of us long to get back to our “normal” lives, but perhaps we would all be well-advised to consider that some elements of our “normal” lives are not worth going back to. If it wasn’t working before, and now you’re going through the shake-up that everyone else is going through too, maybe it would be a good time for all of us to consider leaving some dead weight behind.

This one’s for you, Suzanne: When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange, who you are and what you’re gonna be. Sha na na na na na na na na, Sha na na na na.

I’m pretty sure it’s not the end of the world, but it is the end of the world as we once knew it. I’m even more sure that we will all make it through the rain.

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WHEN COUNTRY WASN’T COOL

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WHEN COUNTRY WASN’T COOL

I couldn’t play a musical instrument to save my life.  Yet, every day, music saves my life.  Every day, at almost every moment when I can, I have music playing.  It fills me up, calms me down and transports me to magical places.  Very simply, it makes me happy.

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When my stepson was in college, he came for a weekend visit.  As he drove up the driveway, his music arrived before he did.   I was standing outside with my firstborn; he was about 12 years old.

“Wow, his music is loud,” I said.

“Mom, that’s what it sounds like when you pull up, too,” he said, in his usual poker-faced style.

I was busted.  I didn’t deny it either.

I’m pretty sure I still sound like that when I pull up, and it’s worth it to me.

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I am writing at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, March 30th.  Happy Birthday to our dad today; he would have been 85 years old.  Last week, I posted that I wanted to celebrate his birthday in a big way:  by going to the Willie Nelson concert in Newkirk, Oklahoma, a mere 2 ½ hour drive from my home.  However, since it is now 8:11 p.m., and the concert started at 8:00, clearly, I will not be going to the show.

I went to the website to check into purchasing tickets, and the show venue reported the bad news:  SOLD OUT.  The secondary sellers had some left, but for their inflated cost worth a month of groceries, I decided having had seen him three times already would have to suffice—for now.    The iconic Willie is one of my all-time favorites—obviously.

So, in his honor, I loaded up my five-disc CD changer with Willie CDs—I own eleven—all day.  I had my own concert in my home.

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Gail is the CD queen.  In her CD-purchasing heyday, she built her collection up to about 700 CDs.  I may own perhaps 200.  Suzanne—ever the minimalist– said she owns only enough to fit into a shoebox.

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Gail stores most of the CDs in old suitcases…

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Gail has vinyl too–this was her first purchase, followed by this sampling:

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Our oldest brother got his first turntable in the early 70’s, and Gail reports she was hooked.  It was a top-of-the-line Pioneer system.  T-Rex and Badfinger were the two bands she remembers most clearly from those early days of her newfound love of music.

Gail kept most of her vinyl, even replacing some of her favorites with the same one on CD.   She began her CD collection sometime in the late 1980’s, I think.  Several years later,  needing an adventure, I spent 1990 in suburban Philadelphia as a nanny.  Gail, Suzanne and I were not as close then as we are now, but we were still tight.  We kept in touch by phone—the land-line kind—and I recall very clearly a phone conversation Suzanne and I had, I think in the fall:

“I’m kind of worried about Gail,” Suzanne said.  “ I think she’s gone off the deep end with this new country music thing.  There’s this guy, Garth Brooks, and she listens to him all the time.  He has this song ‘Friends in Low Places,’ and she just loves it.”

This was the beginning of “New Country,” and Gail’s tastes were obviously on the cutting edge.  Suzanne and I just didn’t know it yet.

We have our favorite country artists, both new and old.  You know who my “old country” favorite is already.  Suzanne doesn’t have a clear favorite, old or new.  Gail also had a spell of Kenny Chesney fever, having gone to several of his concerts.

Being Gail, she found a way to express herself, even among thousands of other fans.  She and a friend saw him in Kansas City, and made a sign that read “KC in KC.”  They followed him to Oklahoma City, and made a sign that read “KC in OKC.”

Coming from Gail, this shouldn’t surprise you.  She finds a way to express herself, and it usually draws positive attention.

I am a concert goer, too.  Having been bitten by the bug with the Beach Boys live as a teenager, right here in my small city, I have always loved to hear my favorite musicians live, sometimes more than once.

None of us knew at the time, but the woman about my age singing with her family band at a wedding dance I went to with my college roommate when I went to her southern Kansas farm home with her in 1985 would become famous.  She was Kansas’s own Martina McBride.  Obviously, some wonderful women came from that neck of the woods; I credit Marilyn as my inspiration to become a speech therapist.

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I have seen Martina McBride two other times, and she has the biggest, most beautiful voice I have ever heard coming from such a tiny woman.  I am biased, but I think her version of “How Great Thou Art” is the best recorded version of all time.  If you haven’t heard it, check it out.  You won’t be disappointed, especially when she hits the high notes at the end.

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I have seen Phil Collins twice, and I would love to see him again.  Mary Chapin Carpenter is another one I have seen twice, and will drop everything when she comes around again.  I have about a dozen CDs from each of them.

Having crossed Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen off my ‘Buffet’ list, that leaves Van Morrison and Jimmy Buffet as must-sees.

Our small city boasts a beautiful art-deco theater in its downtown, offering unparalleled acts like The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from just ten days ago.  Among the other stars I have taken in there include:  Steve Winwood, Dave Mason, Jackson Browne, Lindsay Buckingham, Jewel, The Mavericks, Cheap Trick, Rob Thomas, Weird Al Yankovic, George Jones, Don Williams, Phil Vassar, Rick Springfield, Willie Nelson once, as well as his son Lucas Nelson in a separate show, and Martina McBride one of the two times, then again down the road a few months later in Manhattan, Kansas.

Music is a healing balm, providing the brain with stimulation that cannot be achieved in any other way.  In my work with stroke patients, I have encountered several talented, certified music therapists who provide musical stimulation to the injured brain.  The results are always positive.

Music—specifically special songs—have the power to transport us back in time to a place filled with memories, as if we are returning there physically.  Every time I hear Boston singing “More Than A Feeling,” I am immediately transported back to May, 1982.  And that’s all I am going to tell you about why I remember that song.

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Our living room remodel that I recently wrote about cramped my style in several ways, chiefly the loss of my in-home CD player.

Our five-disc changer, along with the rest of the components sit in this Hoosier cabinet that my husband refinished.  It sat in our grandmother’s garage for years, having been carted from one home to another after a previous resident left it in their newly-acquired home years ago.  Wanting to pass it on, and knowing my husband was the man for the job, she gave it to us.  It began as a dilapidated treasure, but he restored it to its present state of beauty:

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The components are in the bottom,

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And the CDs are in the top.

I had to suffer through several months without my CD music, but mercifully, I was able to play Amazon music through my Kindle.  It is now back where it belongs.

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We even have speakers wired through to the back porch so we can enjoy the music when I am tending to my redneck clothesline,

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Or when we are enjoying our redneck backyard pool.

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I remember Mom and Dad’s vinyl.  I wish we had kept some of their records, but it simply wasn’t practical then.  With Gail’s help, we recalled a few of their favorites:  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Eydie Gorme, Eddie Arnold, Mama Cass and Helen Reddy.

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I didn’t question this cover as a child, but perhaps I should have.  I do now.

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Suzanne, ever the one who is happy with simple, doesn’t have a Buffet list for concerts.  She is simply happy listening to her 70’s and 80’s music on Spotify.  Having Sirius satellite radio in my car, I find my favorite stations are the 70’s and 80’s songs as well.  Those songs are the soundtracks of our youth.

Bruce Springsteen, “The Boss,” is one of Gail’s concert quests.  Having seen him once, he is the one show I would choose to see again if I could.  He delivered three hours of non-stop rock with every ounce of energy he possessed in his early sixties, pausing only for ten seconds of silence to honor his recently deceased saxophonist, Clarence Clemons.  Perhaps we should make that a priority for us to see him.

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I have the Bruce station on preset in my car.

As well as Bruce, Gail has always wanted to see Bob Seger.  Sadly, for us, he recently announced his upcoming retirement from touring after 56 years.   Perhaps it’s not too late to work on that dream as well, as he still has a few dates left.

Music.  Live or recorded, let it fill you.  Let it move you.  Let it be a part of your day, every day.  It is a gift to be opened and enjoyed.  Whether it’s Bruce or Willie, Bob or Martina, or whoever you enjoy, their gift to all of us is their musical talent.

If you possess a singing talent, or perhaps you can play a musical instrument, then please share your gift with the world.

I’m always available for a private concert.

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Happy Spring from the April Fools!