Twenty versions of the same song are scattered throughout the playlist of 40 hymns which lull me to sleep every night. Each artist makes the song his or her own while singing it with distinct passion. Although I certainly have my favorites, it is fun to have the various renditions.
Music enters our ears, flows to our brains, moves our hearts, and sinks into our bones causing us to sway, tap our toes, or close our eyes with pleasure. Others can expound on the parts of music unknown to me, a foreign language I never learned. Instead, the lyrics are the part of a song that speak to me.
I’ve been obsessed with the Ken Burns' documentary “Country Music.” I know there is much talk about who was left out and who got too much screen time, but I was fascinated.
I liked how certain people and songs were mentioned in the different episodes weaving all of the stories and time periods together. It was interesting to see these superstars of country music spoken about as people rather than celebrities.
Many of them came from humble beginnings and used their voices at young ages for the betterment of their families. A common thread was perseverance. Success often followed rejection, sometimes repeated rejection. The rejections weren’t just by one or two radio stations or record labels, but by the whole industry. In some cases the entire town of Nashville shunned an artist trying to break onto the country music scene.
It was such a treat to listen to the musicians being interviewed about other musicians, not just their idols or mentors, but also their peers and competitors.
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One star stated that upon hearing a song by a new female singer she knew the newcomer would be competition for her. It was a statement uttered with admiration for the newcomer’s voice.
Another praised the songwriting ability of a star who was disowned by his family for following his dream of making music. While it took courage for him to chase a dream our ears are happy that he did and that there were strangers who encouraged his songwriting after they became aware of his talent. His lyrics were described as poetry.
Just as the lyrics captivate me with a story, so did the telling of how the songs came to be and how the singer/songwriters came into their own.
What I noticed throughout the episodes was how everyone is interconnected. A story gets written. An artist sings it. The audience hears it and wonders how it can be that somebody is singing our story. We recognize ourselves in the words of love, loss, redemption, grace, and heartbreak. Our hearts connect with the person who penned those words on the back of an envelope in a run-down motel room during a sleepless night.
Music is a unique form of medicine causing joy, dancing, and celebration.
It is a form of time travel; because ordinary people decided to follow dreams, I can hear three notes of a song and be transported to 43 years ago. Even though I have no idea where my eyeglasses are at any given moment, I can tell you details about my history with a song. I know where I was, who I was with, that the sky was star-studded, and there was youthful laughter mixing with the chorus.
Music is also a prayer. Because somebody dared to dream, dared to expose their soul in a song, I get to feel their voice assuage my fears, calm my shattered nerves, and breathe peace into my spirit while they sing me to sleep.
Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.