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“Can Music Save Your Mortal Soul…”

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’ “This’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die”

Did you write the book of love, and do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Now do you believe in rock and roll, can music save your mortal soul
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Don McLean, American Pie

We have such an eclectic taste for music in our family. We listen to the whole range from Classic Rock to Nu Metal to Metal to Classical to Oldies. One of the songs on the playlist my 14yo played as we drove around doing errands yesterday was American Pie. Such a classic. The lyrics, “Can music save your mortal soul,” stood out to me in relation to my son. He has been using music to share his heart with me for so long. In the car, driving around together, he plays music, and hints at what is going on in his world. Sometimes it is obvious and we get into conversations. Sometimes it is wrapped in mystery like American Pie.

I just watched a video interview with McLean this morning and even he won’t come right out and say what the lyrics mean.

Perhaps music cannot save our souls, but “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” That famous line was uttered by a character in William Congreve’s 1697 play The Mourning Bride. Music has always had a direct impact on our psyche and spirit.

Bean was recently grounded for a couple of weeks and couldn’t see his girlfriend. When we finally picked her up to come hang out with us and have dinner and a movie with us on Friday night, his song choice for when she first got in the car was a true golden oldie – “Just the Two of Us,” featuring Bill Withers, from 1980.

Photo by David Sjunnesson on Unsplash

Just the two of us
We can make it if we try
Just the two of us
(Just the two of us)
Just the two of us
Building castles in the sky
Just the two of us
You and I

“Just the Two of Us,” featuring Bill Withers, from 1980

When we drop her back off, he’ll play the song, “Cowboys Don’t Cry,” by Oliver Tree.

I’m not good at goodbyes
I miss the sunshine in your eyes
Who said cowboys don’t cry?

Oliver Tree, Cowboys Don’t Cry

When I’m getting ready for a Poetry Slam and need all my bravery to stand up there at the mic and speak my truth… I shake sometimes, my voice, my hands holding the page, my knees… getting up there and sharing my heart on paper isn’t easy; I’ll listen to Sara Bareilles, Brave.

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Sara Bareilles, Brave

There is almost always a soundtrack going on somewhere to add to the depth of experience of our days. We are listening to music, or a song will come to mind along with all the memories associated with it. Music and art move through the fabric of our lives. My kids and I see shapes in the clouds, which remind us of stories or songs, or other pieces of art, or “Remember that time we went to that museum…?”

I love how much art and music envelop us at every turn, and how the boys have learned to channel their own feelings through art and music to take the edge off of some of those overpowering emotions. They know they are not alone in their highs and lows, because they listen to musicians who can speak their pains or their joys and allow their listeners to feel the connection and the parallels.

Through art, humans experience life in a way that other animals cannot.  Art allows us to share our emotions, desires, and fears with others around us.  Art makes us feel like nothing else can.  It makes us laugh, it makes us cry, and it makes us think about ourselves in ways different than we would otherwise.  Most importantly, art connects us.  It connects us as a whole species, bridging the gaps of language, age, race, country, and time that divide us in everyday life.  

Jenna Capstone

Cover Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

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