The truth is in the music
You may not have thought about it, but music is a diviner of the truth.
Our friend Kent Gray, a country music songwriter in Nashville, wrote a song about his former wife that ended with the words, "She took everything but the blame!"
He wasn't kidding, poor guy. Kent's musings reminded me of my troubled mother long ago singing her favorite song, "Don't Fence Me In."
She most likely sang it because she was indeed fenced in, and that was her particular truth. She not only had three children to raise, but she also needed to help my father raise the crops. Some years it was tough to make ends meet. Some years, life had a fence around it.
Many songs of my parents' era are still familiar today: "That Old Black Magic," "I'll Never Smile Again," "Goodnight Irene," to name a
Most people are not aware that "Goodnight Irene" relates the inner thoughts of Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, a famous blues musician. The lyrics refer to his troubled past with his love, Irene, and to the suicidal thoughts he experienced.
Poor Lead Belly. One verse actually says "Sometimes I take a great notion to jump in the river and drown." That verse was the inspiration, by the way, for Oregonian Ken Kesey's famous novel "Sometimes a Great Notion."
A lot of songs from the old days speak the truth, but one in particular stands out: "You Always Hurt the One You Love." The lyrics say that "You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn't hurt at all. You always take the sweetest rose and crush it 'til the petals fall." Given our general human ineptitude, that sounds about right.
Music certainly tells it like it is in my generation. If an oldies station I'm listening to plays a soundtrack from "The Flamingos" or "The Platters," a very predictable thing happens — the visage of my first boyfriend, Eddie, immediately springs to mind.
His memory is especially vivid if they happen to be playing "I Only Have Eyes for You." Tommy Hunt of "The Flamingos" sings: "My love must be a kind of blind love, I can't see anyone but you, sha bop-sha bop" (yes, they really said that). Those words were, for yours truly, the plain and simple truth.
I was blindly in love and the relationship continually went from hot to cold and back again. It was a cause of perpetual heartache and unadulterated joy. I eventually tucked Eddie into my past, but I never forgot him. He's gone now, but it is wonderful and touching to know that he lives on in the music.
As time passed, my generation came to embrace The Beatles. The four rapscallions from across the pond made their own particular truth. Here is what they say in one of their songs: "I get by with a little help from my friends, mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends. Do you need anybody? I just need someone to love." And that's the truth for all of us, isn't it?
Life is a song that has high notes and low notes. It is often emotional and unexpected. It can be out of tune and grate on your nerves, or it can be beautiful and lilting and downright inspiring.
The important thing to remember is, that however you define it, you are writing the song.
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