Life would be pretty dull without music. I was raised a music lover. My family loves music. I can’t imagine living in a family that doesn’t. No matter what kind of music people like they have a reason for each track they choose to play. Music speaks to them and their experience. It paints a picture of their emotions. For happy times and celebration, there are certain tracks that fill one with joy and elation. For sad times or broken hearts, there are melancholy songs that coerce you to tears and act as a comforting friend draping their arm across your shoulder. When you are in love, there are love songs that make your heart swollen with the beats of affection. When you are angry, there are songs that scream and rattle all of your frustrations. There is a song for every emotion. Music is universal and speaks to the human soul.
Everyday my dad would come home from work and put his favorite music on the stereo. He would sit in the living room with his feet up, donning the tie dye t-shirt that relieved him from his shirt and tie each afternoon, and he would hum and bob his head and relax. I loved to join him and listen to him educate me about the music of the 60’s and 70’s. On car rides to drop me off at my friend’s house, he would quiz me on the songs on the radio. “Who is singing this song?” he would ask right before I tried to exit the car. “You can’t get out until you tell me,” he smirked. I learned so much about music from him. By senior year of high school, I could quiz him about the songs on the radio. I could also impress boyfriends and people my dad’s age, with my knowledge of bands from the 60’s and 70’s.
My dad and I still talk about music when we call each other. We used to attend many concerts together. Now, we attend them separately, but call each other the next day to give a recap about the band. He teaches me about new bands and updates me on what the older bands are up to. I gained my love of the Grateful Dead from him and this past weekend I attended the Dead and Company concert with my fiance. As soon as Bob Weir started singing all of my stress from the day melted away with the sweat dripping from my brow. I danced and swayed and sang along to my favorite songs. I shared my knowledge of their music with my man. Music soothes you that way. It brings back memories and speaks to a certain part of your soul that is yearning for release. I can’t listen to certain bands, without thinking about my dad. I called him the next day to chat about John Mayer’s role with the new configuration of the Grateful Dead and we laughed and smiled and shared our experiences at the shows on either coast. I’ll always have this connection with him.
My mother and I also share a deep connection around music. She isn’t into the same music as my dad, but she raised me to listen to the messages in songs as a sign that the Universe is looking out for me. As a kid, she always sang ‘My Girl,’ by the Temptations to me. This was our song. When it comes on the radio these days, I always text or call my mom especially if it is played at a time when I’m missing her or needing her advice. She speaks to me through the music. She used to stand me on her feet in the living room and dance to Motown or Reggae with me. If I felt down, she would sing ‘No Woman No Cry’ or ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley to cheer me up. When I’m feeling worried or depressed and one of these songs comes on the radio, I feel as if my mom has sent it to me to cheer me up. Songs mean a lot to us. They lift our spirits and send us messages. I believe that when I’m feeling a certain way, the Universe plays me the exact song I need to hear at that moment.
My mother feels the same way. When I felt down about not finding a job for the longest time, I left an interview and as soon as I got into the car the song on the radio was sending me a message. The song lyrics, by Imagine Dragons, sang ‘I’m going to be optimistic this time.’ Hearing that message, made me feel uplifted and I ended up getting that job. Without music, I would feel lost. I don’t play any instruments, but music is the friend I always need to comfort me or celebrate with me. Without music, I would feel lonely. The day I lose one of my parents (hopefully to old age and nothing else), I will have those songs I’ve shared with them to make me feel like they are still around.
After my grandmother passed in 7th grade, we attended her memorial service. They sang ‘Wind Beneath My Wings.’ Every time I hear that song, I can be moved from joyful laughter to tears. When I was processing her death and feeling depressed, the song, ‘What I Got,’ by Sublime came on the radio. It reminded me that life isn’t about taking; it is about giving. My grandmother was a giver. I started volunteering and getting involved in my community the following week and have volunteered or worked in Nonprofits ever since. Music can really move you to action.
That is why, whenever there is a tragedy or an issue needing attention, they get lots of famous musicians together to put on a concert or come out with an album together. Music is a moving force. George Harrison did a concert for Bangladesh. Live Aid was a concert in 1985 held to end famine in Ethiopia and featured the likes of U2, The Who, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Crosby, Stills, and Nash and many more enormous acts. They all came together for a great cause. After September 11th, a compilation of pop artists at the time came together to do a remake of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On,’ to raise awareness and money for the United Way’s 9/11 fund. All of these movements were based around the powerful ability of music to make a difference.
Music has been making a difference for decades. The political movements of the 60’s and 70’s were fueled by music. Bob Dylan wrote, ‘Times They are a Changin,’ and CSNY wrote, ‘Ohio.’ Even in other countries, music is used as a vehicle for protest. Fela Kuti used music to protest injustices in his country, Nigeria. Bob Marley used his music to protest the status quo in Jamaica. Music can move mountains, change political climates, and give voice to the people. I taught a class at OSU (Oregon State University) for two years about colonization and music. I learned so much about how cultures that were oppressed depended on the power of music to fight for themselves and send a message to their oppressors.
Our current state of oppression in the United States, may call for music. Of course, I know music won’t stop racism and bigotry or police brutality, but it still has the power to open minds and make change happen. Even if it just means a community of people coming together to sing uplifting songs and talk about peace. I’ve yet to meet someone who hated music. If you do hate music, I feel bad for you. I think we could use music at this time of tragedy to uplift us all. Whether this be another large benefit concert or an album put out by famous musicians with a message, or just local people joining in a song together. We need some happiness these days. We need a song to bring us together.
Music transcends race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, borders, etc. Music is a universal driving force that brings everyone together. So let’s sing. Let’s join hands and bring peace through our lyrics and melodies. Let’s come together to make change through the power of music.
“Music can change the world, because it can change people,” -Bono.