I was driving home from work today listening to one of my favorite bands. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? I’m sure we all do it.
When I got home, I started to look through some web pages, just browsing the headlines and keeping up with current events. At one site, the headlines were of this variety:
–A reporter went undercover to expose forced prostitution in Eastern Europe (This one is particularly chilling and particularly important as the article says that January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day)
–The Republican race is getting uglier (as if we needed to be reminded of that horribleness coming around every four years)
My review of these headlines got me to thinking why it is that I love the bands I listen to. I think part of the reason is that the lyrics are powerful (at least to me). There is so much terror, so much suffering, and so much grief in this world and in the headlines, yet there are folks out there that know how to reduce the human condition to lyrical poetry.
We all know some amount of suffering. Some know more than others. But the great thing about song is that we don’t compare our wounds or emotions when we listen. In a sense, we’re all equal in music because we can all form our own connection with, and have our own interpretation of, the art form.
Let’s list out some great bands with great lyrics. I’m going to give you a small sampling of my favorites, and if you are so inclined, you can give me a sample of your favorites in the comments section.
Feel free to click the links and have a listen! By the way, none of these bands are paying me for any of this. If there’s an ad before the video, well, that’s just because there is. I get nothin’ for it!
1. James. You may not know the band James, but they are one of my favorites. Their song Sometimes is so excruciatingly beautiful, that it is…sometimes…hard to listen to it. James’ lyrics are painful and beautiful and are about high highs and low lows. Everyone’s welcome! Check out Sit Down. But for a really great 90 minutes, it doesn’t get much better than their album, Laid.
2. Paul Simon. Do I really need to type anything here? One listen to Only Living Boy in New York and I’m done for a while! I was raised on Simon and Garfunkel. I was too young to dive in too deep to lyrics from I Am a Rock, The Boxer, and April Come She Will, but I could bop along with 59th Street Bridge Song with no problems. Groovy!
3. The Connells. I’ll bet you don’t know this band. Too bad. Incredible. First heard their song ’74-’75 on an airplane many years ago and haven’t looked back since. There are songwriters that can convert pain and doubt into melodic beauty through musical alchemy. That’s The Connells. When I met them back in the ’90s, I asked Mike Connell what ’74-’75 was about and he said, “A feeling. A feeling of a year.” Indeed.
4. Tears for Fears. Yes. This is one of my all all all time favorites. There is a lot more to Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith than just Shout and Everybody Wants to Rule the World. Ever heard Who Killed Tangerine? What about Cold? Buddhism, astrology, angst, joy, and Janov’s scream therapy. All rolled into one band? You bet.
5. The Pogues. Shane MacGowan is a genius. Absolute and pure genius. Take time with The Pogues. Don’t judge the book by the cover. Judge by lyrics. Delve into them. Listen. I know there are some who regard Thousands Are Sailing to be his masterpiece, but don’t forget about Misty Morning, Albert Bridge and White City. I can’t stress their genius enough. The breadth and depth of their writing and musical ability is beyond belief. It’s a treat you give yourself every time you listen. And if you listen deep, then you really discover something special. They sing about love, loneliness, authors, sailors, prison, Spain, Mexico, beer, whiskey, greyhound racing…and so much more. Not for the faint of heart, but so worth it for the rest of us.
Oh, there are so many more than I can list here. But this is a good start. These are some great bands (to me) and I’ve had many more hours of enjoyment than I can count from them. They have my gratitude.
Read the headlines today and stay informed. It’s important. Then, go pick out a favorite band and listen to someone who can pluck the pains and joys from the world and set them down in your ears.
Maybe then, that drive home can take on greater meaning.