Why the song is so important
There’s one day each year out here in the deep country of the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin when Spring breaks Winter’s back. That day was yesterday and for me, as always, music played an essential part in this blessing ritual.
On that special day yesterday, as I have since I was a teenager, I drove into town, the warm spring air blowing softly from the southwest invisibly melting the snow, the sun finally high enough in the sky to warm the earth. I drove into town, windows open, to wash my truck, to get a haircut and to run other errands. I could have run these errands on any other day, but this was the day to run them. This year on the way in I played, at top volume, Hayes Carll through the stereo system, although my earliest memory of this ritual was of the Beach Boys blaring out of the tinny AM radio of my father’s 1964 Impala Super Sport. But no matter the source of the music, today, as then, it helped me feel reborn.
It is tempting to refer to the role music plays in this ritual as redemptive, but that’s not exactly the right word. It is, simultaneously, an elemental pulling and a release. It’s a pulling toward the earth, not just toward intellectually understanding that the celestial tide has brought a new season, but the visceral sense of just how much a part of that natural rhythm I am, we all are. Music skillfully rendered and listened to in this context is a link to this primal truth, the fastener that connects me in that moment to the natural world. And, at the same time, particularly if the tempo and beat are hard enough, it provides a release from the pent up-ness of winter, an opportunity to yell YES! through the open window of my truck into the thawing countryside.
This pulling and release opens me up to the razor-edge of Truth that can emerge from a well-crafted song, an edge that is so easy to miss amidst all the concerns of harsh winter or, come to that, of a busy life any time, anywhere. It happens every year on this day: A snippet of lyric grabs my attention and deepens the moment because it so spot-on matches something I believe and because it is so liberating to hear somebody else say it with conviction. In this case, it was from Bad Liver and A Broken Heart:
Doesn’t anybody care about truth anymore?
Maybe that’s what songs are for.
As with all things, this wonderful moment in time was fleeting. Since this is Wisconsin, there likely will be at least one more major snowstorm and some bitter cold weather ahead. And, of course, like everybody, I have the normal difficulties of life, including the harsh currents of the economy to contend with, worries that keep me away from being more present to these types of simple joys.
But on this day, in one twenty mile round trip into town, the weather, my truck and some good, good music liberated me from winter, connected me to something far deeper than my worldly concerns and propelled me into what’s next. I don’t know what more I can ask from a song.
We surely all have these kinds of experiences with songs that, at least for the moment, deepen our lives. This was my experience from yesterday — what’s yours?