“Easy Listening Music” has changed, or so it seems. My son used to describe the music I listen to as “funeral home music”. I’m not sure how he came up with that description, but twenty-plus years ago our music tastes were worlds apart. Back when he was alleging that my music genre of choice was funeral home music, he was listening to Robert Earl Keene. “Worlds apart” pretty well describe the gap in our music venue of choice. Enough said!
That’s not to say that I had totally boycotted country western music. You may find it difficult to believe, but during my high school and college years, I was drawn to the lyrics of country western music. There was something about the storyline as it resonated with the notes that captured my imagination and garnered my attention. Maybe it was a one-size-fits all approach, but the story lines seemed real and the narratives they told were compelling.
When I was a kid growing up, our family watched the Grand Ole Opry on television. Trust me, it captivated our attention the same way that many music fans track the weekly performances on American Idol. In addition, it wasn’t unusual for our family to attend music venues to hear live performances of recording artists or amateur singers. We liked music. We liked country music.
I took up the violin in elementary school. Did I mention I have absolutely no musical talent or ability? Actually, the mistake I made as a fourth grader is that I wanted to play the fiddle, not a violin. They may look like the same instrument, but the sound and music is entirely different.
Even as a kid, I had it figured out when it came to incredible music. She was without doubt my all-time favorite vocalist. Yet, on March 5, 1963, the same year that President Kennedy was assassinated, Pasty Cline, Lloyd “Cowboy” Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Randy Hughes perished in a plane crash in Camden, Tennessee. Yesterday marked the 53rd anniversary of their tragic deaths.
I never heard Patsy Cline sing in person. Yet, she was and has been my all-time-favorite vocalist for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t just that her voice reeled you in and held you fast. It was also the emotional impact of the story musically shared. It was the lyrics. The story that unfolds takes you captive and draws on your heartstrings. If you question what I’m saying is true, go back and listen again to: “I Fall To Pieces”, “Crazy” and “She’s Got You”. Patsy Cline was an all-time great. She had the stuff to make it work: a storyline, vocal range and the delivery to make it all seem real and up close and personal.
Maybe my subsequent departure to “funeral home music” twenty years ago as my son calls it, was an attempt to replace verbal and emotional messaging with calming and soothing instrumental music. In fact, some might even more appropriately describe it as “elevator music”. But that was twenty years ago. Times have changed and so has the easy listening genre.
Earlier this week, I heard a recording artist I had not heard before. Wow! Wow! Wow! What she brings to the table is as impactful and captivating as the music of Patsy Cline. Am I overstating it to suggest her musical gift, the emotional story she crafts, and the play on the listener’s heartstrings is etched in stone? You can’t escape it. In fact, you find yourself not wanting to run from it, but run to it. Perhaps her genre is more “soul” than “country”, but the emotional draw reels you in and holds you fast. Without even consciously being aware of what’s taking place, you are intrinsically crafted in the story line. Her story reminds you of your story or that of someone you know and of course, when your story is being shared, it has you full attention.
Let the sound, rhythm and storyline of “Hello”, sung by Adele, resonate in the fabric of your mind. We’ve all got stories. Sometimes our stories have a common tread. Adele has the ability to craft it in the most uncommon and powerful way.
“Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet
To go over everything
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing
“Hello, can you hear me?
I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be
When we were younger and free
I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet
“There’s such a difference between us
And a million miles
“Hello from the other side
I must have called a thousand times
To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done
But when I call you never seem to be home
Hello from the outside
At least I can say that I’ve tried
To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart
But it don’t matter. It clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore
“Hello, how are you?
It’s so typical of me to talk about myself. I’m sorry
I hope that you’re well
Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened?”
All My Best!