Life Without A Soundtrack

I can’t imagine life without a soundtrack. Be it our own internal DJ running playlists in our head, or our earbuds emitting favorite tracks to accompany our runs, a radio station in the car, Air Play throughout our house condo apartment abode, a movie soundtrack masterfully helping to carry a mood, becoming part of the story, a CD loaned in an office, streamed in an office, and for good or ill in an elevator a grocery store a Dr.’s office, hummed by a child in the restroom stall next door, hummed by you yourself, belted out in the shower.

Songs of joy, protest, love, hate, frustration, depression, darkness, hope, hopelessness, goofy random silliness, triumph—all have a place. They prompt a smile, or nod, or tap of feet. They can get you to turn the volume up and push the gas pedal dowwwwwnnnn. They can keep you company when you are blue, encourage you to dance, relax, meditate or gyrate. They turn a dark walk in a cold rain up the hill from the bus that was late and cold and loud and smelly with a bad driver into a triumphant joyful march or dance home. They can save you from a hard day, week, time, carry you safely home. They can let you be OK, let you know you are not alone. They can give you strength hope courage. They can lift you up and calm you down. Transport you to a particularly good concert indoor, outdoor, large club or small remembered from once upon a time.

Several pre-distancing weeks ago I was in the produce area of a local grocer. A Bob Dylan song started playing. Everyone in the produce department started to sing. We all noticed made eye contact, smiled and continue to sing together as we picked out our peppers, kales, and cucumbers. Recalling that experience puts me in mind of something David Brooks, New York Times columnist, said. He doesn’t care for the phrase “social distancing” and makes a good case for using the phrase “physical distancing” instead. Yes, right now we can be and need to be social. I truly believe that what happened in that produce department pre-pandemic would happen even today. We’d be standing six feet apart in our various types of masks, politely waiting to get to the cucumbers. A foot tap, a head bob, maybe someone starts to hum or even shyly sing, words muffled by masks. I don’t think I’m far off given how shoppers (at least in that particular store) are behaving today, how they’ve (we’ve) behaved in the past, and the magic of music.

Any age, any genre, music speaks to us, sings to us, relates to us, beckons us, grabs us, taps our feet, brings a smile, saves us, cradles us, lifts us, entices us to sing, dance, laugh, cry, helps us ”…sing the body electric…” (thank you Walt Whitman and Weather Report).

Today is no different. In fact, filling our time of waiting, quarantine, isolation with our own soundtrack may be more important than ever. Sharing songs, soundtracks? Even better.

John Prine died this week. From Rolling Stone:

“John Prine, One of America’s Greatest Songwriters, Dead at 73

Grammy-winning singer who combined literary genius with a common touch succumbs to coronavirus complications.

John Prine, who for five decades wrote rich, plain-spoken songs that chronicled the struggles and stories of everyday working people and changed the face of modern American roots music, died Tuesday at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He was 73. The cause was complications related to COVID-19, his family confirmed to Rolling Stone.”

A great outpouring of posts ensued on social media, most of them included a video of John Prine performing. There we were, me and my physically distanced friends, listening to each other’s favorite John Prine songs. A day of social connection, sharing, smiles, tears, closeness. For one day, we shared a soundtrack.

Sound, melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, and soul.

“Life without music would be a mistake.” 

Friedrich Nietzsche said that.

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

Bob Marley said that.

“I can’t imagine life without a soundtrack.” 

I said that.

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