Tag Archives: music

Pay It Forward

29 Jul

When I was a college student in Philadelphia, a good friend and I would occasionally venture downtown to take in a little culture with a concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Academy of Music often made student tickets available just a few minutes before the concert was about to start. On one occasion, Midori, the famous young violinist, was scheduled to perform. We knew that chances were very slim that we would be able to get tickets as the concert would likely be sold out. We decided to give it a shot and at least enjoy a nice dinner in the city and try our luck.

When we got to the box office, just as we thought, the performance was completely sold out. No student tickets, or any other tickets for that matter, were available at all. As we turned to go on our merry way and head back to campus, an elegantly-dressed old woman approached us. She was apparently waiting for a friend who never showed. “You look like a nice young couple,” she said. “Would you like my tickets?” My friend politely asked her how much she wanted for them, expecting the price to be much higher than we could afford. “Nothing” she replied. “Perhaps one day when you are my age, you will do the same thing for someone else.” We gratefully took the tickets, thanked the woman profusely and found our seats. Sixth-row center. They didn’t get much better than that. They would have cost a fortune, at least for two college students.

The concert was beautiful and Midori’s playing was simply magical. For about two hours, I wasn’t a college student in the throws of exams and stress. I was a million miles away, escaping to a peaceful, melodic haven. I couldn’t help think throughout the entire concert about the woman who gave us the tickets. Who was she waiting for? Why didn’t they show up? Why didn’t she stay and enjoy the concert herself? Did she leave the box office feeling lonely and disappointed by being stood-up? Or was she happy knowing that her kindness brought some much needed peace and respite to two young students? I closed my eyes, listened to the glorious sounds of the violin and orchestra, and pondered all of those things. Her misfortune turned into our fortune. Another God-wink? Perhaps.

I’m not sure there is a better representation of the expression “pay it forward”. Will my friend or I, or both of us, do the same for someone else some day? Yes. Here it is, more than twenty years later, and I remember that night, and the natural high it brought, like it was just yesterday. I hope that when I am her age, I’m not standing alone waiting on someone who never comes. I hope I continue to hear the beautiful music. And I hope that night ended peacefully for her, with a simple explanation for why her friend never came. But if I do find myself in the position to pay it forward, I most certainly will. When we open our eyes, we can see the God-winks all around us. And sometimes, God places the “winks” in our own hands to do with them what we will.

As Plato said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.” A pretty amazing thing to pay forward.

Turn the Beat Around

21 Apr


I was listening to one of my favorite church songs this morning during Easter mass.  It’s called “The Bread of Life” and for some reason, every time I used to hear it, I would cry.   It wasn’t the words of the song that brought out the tears–it’s a happy song which basically says that those who believe in Jesus will want for nothing and be raised up to live forever.  Clearly, it wasn’t the song.  It was what was going on in my life at that time that made me cry.  Today, I listened and smiled with my kids next to me and I started thinking about music and what a huge role it plays in our lives.  

 
You can hear a song and it can instantly take you back to a particular time, event, or memory.  Driving back from Charleston yesterday, a lovely 10-hour car ride with a sick husband, my daughter with her headphones permanently affixed to her head, and my two boys acting out the WWF championships in the back seat, I heard everything from classic rock to 70s and 80s tunes to country.   Looking at the lyrics of the songs you listen to through the decades and stages of your life says a great deal.  
 
In elementary school, I enjoyed the deep, philosophical lyrics of artists (and I use that term very loosely) like Sheena Easton, Rick Springfield, Adam Ant, Men at Work, Taco, Loverboy, Sammy Hagar, Duran Duran, Human League….I could go on.  We didn’t know any better to realize that most of these lyrics made no sense or were completely stupid.  Who the hell was Jessie and why do we care about his girl?   If I had a nickel for every time someone dialed 867-5309, I’d be up there with Bill Gates and Oprah in Forbes.  And come on, Eileen, drive your little red Corvette to see your friends Mr. Roboto and Mickey, who is so fine that he blows minds.  When you get there, you can do the Stray Cat Strut or the Safety Dance, all while putting on the ritz.  Deep.  Very deep. 
 
I got into high school and learned that Whitney wanted to dance with somebody and George Michael wanted your sex. To which Debbie Gibson replied “only in my dreams”.   Huey was doing it all for his baby while the Beastie Boys fought for their right to party. Poor, abused Luka got lost in emotion with Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam.  Bananarama heard a rumor that Madonna was on La Isla Bonita and the lady in red went to the land of confusion with Genesis.  And sorry Gloria Estefan, but the rhythm never did get me.  At this moment, no sign of Billy Vera and the Beaters.  But some of those songs became important to us as prom themes, background noise to first kisses, or party music while we tried to be cool and shotgun beers in dark woods tucked inside a local golf course. 
 
College brought a more worldly and sophisticated array of music.  The British invasion gave us New Order, the Smiths, the Cure, Depeche Mode and many others.  It was so cool to listen to that ever-cheery Morrissey crooning things like “if a ten-ton truck crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die” and “sweetness I was only joking when I said by right you should be bludgeoned in your bed”.   If that didn’t lead to heavy drinking, I don’t know what did. Marky Mark sang about good vibrations while REM complained about losing their religion.  DNA featuring Suzanne Vega gave us Tom’s Diner, which once we got in our heads, we couldn’t stop singing all day.   How Gerardo’s “Rico Suave” didn’t walk away with the highest accolades of the music industry is beyond me.  I guess Vanilla Ice gave him some stiff competition.  Oh, and Milli Vanillli–how devastated were we when we found out that they were lip-synching frauds?  Blame it on the rain, I want to be rich. Crushing.  
 
It wasn’t until recently that I found myself leaving the country station on the radio a little longer. Some great music and talented artists.  But I think I have to say that of all the music I have listened to over the decades, no genre features songs about alcohol more than country.  Of course you will find songs about drinking in other genres.  George Thorogood had to have his one bourbon, one scotch and one beer.  Jimmy Buffett sang about Margaritaville and Boat Drinks, and reminded us that it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.  Even my favorite opera, La Traviata, has the drinking song where Alfredo and Violetta belt out in beautiful Italian “libiamo –let’s drink, let’s drink in joyful chalices…let’s enjoy the pleasures, fleeting and fast”.  One of broadway’s most brilliant offerings, Les Miserables, includes a song called “Drink With Me”.  I would drink nonstop too if I were Jean Valjean.  
 
But as I started listening more carefully to the titles and lyrics of country songs, I saw a very common theme.  Here are just a few examples of song titles:  
 
Drink in My Hand–Eric Church
Drinks After Work–Toby Keith
Drink One for Me–Jason Aldean
Drink a Beer–Luke Bryan
The More I Drink–Blake Shelton
Save Water, Drink Beer–Chris Young
Get My Drink On–Toby Keith
I Like Girls That Drink Beer
Drink on It–Blake Shelton
Haven’t Had a Drink All Day–Toby Keith
Drink One More Round–Cory Morrow
Drink Too Much–Mark McKinney
Drink Your Whiskey Down–Reckless Kelly
Drink More Beer–Rodney Carrington
Drink, Drank, Drunk–Cowboy Troy
The World Needs a Drink–Terri Clark
Two Rounds of Jose Cuervo–Tracy Byrd
Two Pina Coladas–Garth Brooks
and…..Why the Hell Do You Think I Drink? –Joe Nichols
 
And that is just a small sampling.  Some of those songs are pretty funny, some are sad, and some just raise red flags that their writers should consider a stop in at the Betty their next time out on tour.  In my continued journey in sobriety, I tend to enjoy listening to the songs that talk about someone’s life going down the crapper from drinking.  They remind me of the benefits of sobriety.  The station gets changed quickly for all the songs romanticizing alcohol.  As things get better in my life with each day sober, I don’t find myself crying at songs as much.  I don’t even need Bobby McFerrin to tell me not to worry and to be happy, or have to play Pharrell to dance around “happy”.   It comes more often and more naturally.  Maybe I should work on my own song –something to the tune of one day at a time, life is a hell of a lot better sober.  Hmmm…..
 
I leave you with lyrics from the iconic Swedish band Abba:
 
Thank you for the music,  the songs I’m singing, thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be? 
Without a song or a dance, what are we?
So I say thank you for the music, 
For giving it to me.
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