Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Music So Beautiful, It Nearly Brings Tears

In her post on living an artful life, Yellow Springs, Ohio-artist and blogger Jafabrit asks:
Have you ever listened to music and thought it so beautiful you could cry?
Yes, I remember the first time I listened to the entire Born to Run LP by Bruce Springsteen, I cried. I couldn't believe that someone could channel that much passion, that much stirring musicianship, and lyrics so vivid and so beautiful into one album. I not only could have cried, I actually did.

There was also jealousy in those tears. I've always tinkered with composing. But when I heard Born to Run, I thought, "What's the use?" My reaction was a bit like that of folkie Phil Ochs, thought in their Greenwich Village days to be Bob Dylan's chief rival, when he heard Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. Ochs laughed and cried at once, realizing that Dylan had surpassed him and everybody else.

After hearing Born to Run, I wrote a song, the lyrics to which began:
Aimless shuffle, Bruce Springsteen's got me down again
Speaking of Bob Dylan, by the way, my all-time favorite Dylan LP (and my son's) is Blood on the Tracks. The 1975 release is a painful break-up album, chronicling the end of Dylan's marriage. The poignance is palpable as we hear Dylan "singing through these tears." I'm moved to the brink of tears of empathy when I hear Dylan sing, for example:

If you see her, say hello, she might be in Tangier
She left here last early spring, is livin' there, I hear
Say for me that I'm all right though things get kind of slow
She might think that I've forgotten her, don't tell her it isn't so.

We had a falling-out, like lovers often will
And to think of how she left that night, it still brings me a chill
And though our separation, it pierced me to the heart
She still lives inside of me, we've never been apart.

If you get close to her, kiss her once for me
I always have respected her for busting out and gettin' free
Oh, whatever makes her happy, I won't stand in the way
Though the bitter taste still lingers on from the night I tried to make her stay.

I see a lot of people as I make the rounds
And I hear her name here and there as I go from town to town
And I've never gotten used to it, I've just learned to turn it off
Either I'm too sensitive or else I'm gettin' soft.

Sundown, yellow moon, I replay the past
I know every scene by heart, they all went by so fast
If she's passin' back this way, I'm not that hard to find
Tell her she can look me up if she's got the time.
Or, how about, You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, the words of a man seeing the end of a love at its beginning?:
I've seen love go by my door
It's never been this close before
Never been so easy or so slow.
Been shooting in the dark too long
When somethin's not right it's wrong
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Dragon clouds so high above
I've only known careless love,
It's always hit me from below.
This time around it's more correct
Right on target, so direct,
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Purple clover, Queen Anne lace,
Crimson hair across your face,
You could make me cry if you don't know.
Can't remember what I was thinkin' of
You might be spoilin' me too much, love,
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Flowers on the hillside, bloomin' crazy,
Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme,
Blue river runnin' slow and lazy,
I could stay with you forever
And never realize the time.

Situations have ended sad,
Relationships have all been bad.
Mine've been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud.
But there's no way I can compare
All those scenes to this affair,
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Yer gonna make me wonder what I'm doin',
Stayin' far behind without you.
Yer gonna make me wonder what I'm sayin',
Yer gonna make me give myself a good talkin' to.

I'll look for you in old Honolulu,
San Francisco, Ashtabula,
Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know.
But I'll see you in the sky above,
In the tall grass, in the ones I love,
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.
(I also love it that Dylan rhymes Honolulu and Ashtabula!)

Of course, Jafa seems to have had in mind songs that derive their power to move us from their melody. In that case, I mention Paul McCartney's melodies. Often described as haunting, they too can also bring me close to tears from their beauty. The final movement of his Standing Stone moves me every time I hear it. I pray that Paul McCartney will be in heaven; not only because I pray that for all people, but also because, selfishly, I would love to hear the music he would compose for God's glory there! (All can be in heaven. See here.)

Then, there are a whole bunch of hymns and praise songs that do that to me. Among them, Amazing Grace, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, Above All, My Glorious, Lead Me to the Cross, and Were You There?. We sing this last one at the conclusion of our Good Friday Tenebrae worship services and it always speaks powerfully about the wonder of God enfleshed giving Himself on the cross!

How about you, any music so beautiful, you think that you could cry?

1 comment:

jafabrit said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I feel the same way about "Amazing Grace"