My kids love Top 40 radio. I guess all kids do. I remember listening to “Yes It’s True” by Huey Lewis in the back seat of the squished Datsun carpool ride on the way to 4th grade like it was yesterday. Back To The Future melodies and 80’s breakdance pop escorted us to the front door of the school where the Safety Patrol convoyed us through the orange cones. 80’s simple rock and pop would be the soundtrack of the memories of my childhood until Nirvana could take over in the angst of my high school years. Nostalgia is always rose-colored.
Over the last several years, the kids and I have had some very important conversations about music. “There is music that we like, and then there is music that moves us. And rarely is the music that moves us found on the radio.” It’s hard for an entertainer to convey the heart behind a lyric that she didn’t write. Singers are a dime a dozen, ask any weekend karaoke bar, but lyricists that can capture the intricate tone and hue of human emotion, who incite the imagination, are a rare breed. Sometimes I try to write a song with the sole goal of discovering just one perfect lyric, one heartstruck phrase. Just a few words that resonate with passion and paradox. And then there are the exceptional writers who fill and feel every note with them- every line a burrowed shaft into the soul of human frailty. That is the music that moves us.
A year after Tiffanni was diagnosed, I sat down at a piano to attempt to pen some words of how I felt. That first year was devastating. The disease spread at a brisk rate and it affected every aspect of our life. Her body began to convulse constantly, I had to take her car keys, she couldn’t sing anymore with any clarity, dinner party invitations waned, she couldn’t cut hair, she couldn’t cook- it was overwhelming. So, I sat at the piano and wrote every line of the song in one sitting through tears just to find the line, “I still feel the same”. After a few weeks of recording and production, we sat in the car together one day and I told her, “I want you to hear something,” and played her Clearwater Sand for the first time.
As the song played she sat expressionless. Distracted and clearly unable to focus, she asked me when it ended, “That’s pretty, what was it about?” I explained the song and the thought behind it and she responded impassively, “Aw, that’s sweet.” A disease that steals the emotions might be the most damned presence to ever inhabit the human experience.
Most days I don’t want to feel. Or maybe my body knows that I can’t handle them that particular day. But there are some moments where I need to sense. Where the music that moves me is given freedom to express for me. I have my go-to’s. The guys and gals that live out their light and darkness in song and then loan the world the emotions for the rest of us to feel. Those that uncover the melancholy of the world if only to give it a name.
A few days ago Tiffanni and I were driving down the road and I was listening to one of my go-to’s. One of the guys that brings out the feels. Sometimes you just need to feel to validate that you’re still alive. Still a part of this thing. Tiff and I usually drive in silence. Sometimes I think aloud so as to imitate a conversation, but for the most part we ride in quiet. Our most common setting. As I glanced over at Tiffanni, tears were streaming down her face. I panicked, what could be wrong. Did she get hurt? Did she forget something trivial? Did she lose something? “What’s wrong Tiff? What happened?”
And through her genuine sadness she said, “This song, I don’t know why, but it just made me cry.”
There are these quaint moments, suspended for a brief second, that I’m able to say, “Oh, there you are. I knew you were still in there somewhere.” They are rare. They are found in a smile, a laugh, a wink, a smirk, a tear. The music of the heart. Not just the moments that I like, but the moments that move me. The brief and simple moments that I can honestly say, “I still feel the same.”