tunes for tuesday

a few weeks ago, when erin called my attention to alyssa’s back to blogging challenge, i was like, nah. i don’t wanna play. this right here is probably the only post i’m going to contribute, and i’m doing it because i realized one of the prompts, upon further consideration, did kind of strike a chord: three (or however many you choose) songs that define your life and why.

while in high school, my younger brother was asked to write a paper about music and how it could soothe the savage beast. he wrote about how it helped me, and though i didn’t particularly like being compared to a savage beast, there are far too many times the phrase has suited.

my father was a musician in high school and college. rockin’ rick played the saxophone. he also played football. on friday nights he’d play four quarters, and then he’d march on that field during halftime in his pads and uniform. he was offered a full-ride scholarship to southern methodist university to study music, but he wanted to be with my mother, and she wanted to go to lamar university… they have hundreds and hundreds of albums. there was always music in my house as a child. i’d come home from school, and my mother’d be singing along to barbra streisand, jane olivor, johnny mathis, harry belafonte…

i can remember sitting at the kitchen table listening to olivor’s songs while doing homework (probably because i’d not done an assignment and she was making me finish it to turn in for partial credit so i wouldn’t fail a class). i remember sitting before a phonograph in their bedroom listening to belafonte sing the rose. she’d wanted me to hear his version. i was, and still am, partial to bette midler’s, which is where we’ll begin…

the rose. had to be bette midler’s because i can sing. well. and i wanted to sing it as well as she. (because in the early days of my youth, before i learned of just how broken my body was… before my peers shattered my self-perception, i had confidence… i knew i was good, and i could.) i sang that one a LOT. on walks around my neighborhood, on the bus ride to school… during class, i was writing the lyrics. every day. i clung to those words, to the hope in them. they were a relentless prayer for me… when the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long, and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong, just remember…

the wind beneath my wings. midler again. sue me. i love that woman’s voice. it is, well… divine. i was always in the shadows. my parents’, my brothers’, my peers’. i never felt the sun on my face. i always walk a step behind, even now. i’ve heard my smile’s amazing; it hides an astounding amount of pain. but my father… he’s told me often of how i’m his hero. me. this man who’s accomplished SO much in his life, has made such a name for himself, has established and nourished so many positive relationships with SO many people. he thinks the world of me. so i’d sing this one, too. i’d pray i could be this strong, that i could know i deserve his praise. this one, like the last, made me hope.

before you were born. toad the wet sprocket. off the fear album. this album i listened to often in the first year or two of its release. it’s one of those few that i think are pretty damned solid, beginning to end. this song, though… its lyrics speak to me for several reasons. forty years ago or so, if a child was born with issues like those i had, doctors recommended that child be placed in an institution, which is exactly what was recommended to my parents. before you were born someone kicked in the door… there’s no place for you here… stay back where you belong. my parents took me home. they found other doctors who did what they could to fix me… every time some issue surfaced, they’d find another… and another… so physically, i lived with reminders that i am flawed, like i’d been made of scraps. i’d go to school to face my peers… you are not wanted here… stay back where you belong… my self-image was obliterated by the time i’d entered high school. the only emotions i knew by this point were rage and despair. by the time i entered college, i was a poorly-constructed shell of a woman. the rage had fueled me in adolescence, but the fire was dying by then. at least, i thought it was. this song stirred the embers just enough to help get me through five more years of academia. goddamn the wounds that show how deep a word can cut. i’m always having to ask others how they see me now. have done so for the last two decades because in the first two decades so many sought to break me. so my reflection… there are just pieces of that shell now. fragments. i always feel guilty having to ask, pathetic. i know how it seems. how can it happen that every time you ask us this question, the answer seems like a lie. you know what we’re saying, and you know what it means, and it’s always sincere, god knows, but it never gets through to where you need. while some of the lyrics light a fire in me, still, the first and last verses can sometimes keep it contained.

whatever i fear. toad the wet sprocket again. there’s almost nothing left, and you eat my kind for breakfast… i sicken myself so much… whatever i fear the most is whatever i see before me…

rhyme and reason. dave matthews band. i know these voices must be my soul… i’ve had enough, i’ve had enough of being alone… i got no place to go. i kept hearing people say depressed people choose depression, and for the longest time i’d thought i’d brought all this on myself, that it was caused by how i’d chosen to react to the traumatic experiences of my youth. a sort of mental self-harm over which i had complete control. so for me, the reference to needles in the song is metaphorical. and there’s that part of me that just wants it over and done.

with or without you. u2. because this is how i feel about love… i can’t have it, but i want it. i wait for it, even though i know i can’t handle it when it’s in my clumsy grasp. my hands clench things too tightly. there’s too much hate in me… from all that fire and rage. i’m too open. too eager to share. too free with my stories. i give myself away too easily… and then, when it matters to be open and vulnerable… the walls i build are insurmountable. mama says i’ve got the go to hell look patented. see the stone set in your eyes… see the thorn twist in your side… 

i also like acrobat: you can swallow, or you can spit. you can throw it up, or choke on it… don’t let the bastards grind you down… i know you’d hit out, if you only knew who to hit. and who’s gonna ride your wild horses

closer to fine; secure yourself; kid fears; prince of darkness; blood and fire. indigo girls. darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear. i wrapped my fear around me like a blanket (closer to fine). i wrote a whole post about prince of darkness.

silent all these years; crucify; precious things; winter; hey jupiter; the doughnut song; baker bakertori amos. every finger in the room is point at me. i wanna spit in their faces, then i get afraid of what that could bring. i got a bowling ball in my stomach, got a desert in my mouth. figures that my courage would choose to sell out now… i’ve been raising up my hands, drive another nail in. just what god needs. one more victim (crucify). basically the whole album little earthquakes needs to be in your collection if it’s not already. that last song, though, baker baker. that one’s my favorite. behind my eyes, i’m hiding… my heart’s been hard to find. here… there must be something here.

place in this world; i’ll lead you home; let me show you the way. michael w. smith. my crutches when i feel most defeated, when all seems lost.

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Categorized as music

3 comments

  1. My mother also loved Johnny Mathis.
    I forgot that Michael W. Smith "Place in the World". That's a beautiful song.
    I think I only new the singles from Todd the Wet Sprocket, and I liked them. I need to listen to those two songs. I especially enjoyed how you wrote about "Before You Were Born."

  2. I love your explanations of the songs you chose! I had forgotten about Michael W. Smith but I need to start listening to his music again because it's so wonderful.

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