The sad news of Michael Jackson's untimely death has me thinking about music and its effects on us - individually, as cultures, as generations. Let's think about the soundtracks of our lives...
1) What sort of music did you listen to as a child - this would likely have been determined or influenced by your parents? Or perhaps your family wasn't musical...was the news the background? the radio? Singing around the piano?
Mmmm...earliest memories include my Close-n-Play, guitar lessons, hearing my mom's accordion ("Lady of Spain," anyone?) all through the house, and looking forward all week to music class at school. Mrs. Ewald, my teacher, was really creative about getting us "hands on" with a variety of instruments, and we sang all the time. In fact, the first songs I ever really took notice of, listening to the words and how they fit with the music, I learned in music class. Here's one of them:
Which says to me that I was a sort of utopian, social-justice oriented kid from w-a-y back, ready to be part of the Lesbian Musical Earnestness Wave, a la Indigo Girls, from age 7! :-)
There's a land that I see where the children are free
And I say it ain't far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll live
In a land where the river runs free
In a land through the green country
In a land to a shining sea
And you and me are free to be you and me
2) Going ahead to teenage years, is there a song that says "high school" (or whatever it might've been called where you lived") to you?
3) What is your favorite music for a lift on a down day? (hint: go to www.pandora.com and type in a performer/composer...see what you come up with!)
Stevie Wonder--Sir Duke
Elton John--Tiny Dancer
Gustav Holst--finale from St. Paul's Suite
Aretha Franklin--Natural Woman
Indigo Girls--Get Out the Map
Beethoven--last few minutes of last movement of 9th Symphony ("Ode to Joy" part)
Billy Joel--Just the Way You Are
Captain & Tennille--Song of Joy (no link, sorry)
Patti LaBelle--Ready for a Miracle
Sarah McLachlan--Ordinary Miracle
And, of course, any really good choral music (soft spot for spirituals), cranked up LOUD. Beloved and I used to sing with this group, and had the privilege of singing this particular piece under the baton of its composer, in his guest stint with us. We had a group of friends sing it at our wedding.
4) Who is your favorite performer of all time?
There's been so much brilliant music...where do I begin? I love Jessye Norman's ability to completely mesmerize an audience; YoYo Ma's joy; the way music seeps from Bobby McFerrin's pores; the Indigo Girls' laid-back honesty; Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett and Keb Mo's effortless cool and amazing musicianship, Aretha Franklin's willingness to leave everything on the stage. Basically, anyone with the chops to write a lyric that says something honestly and poetically, pair it with an evocative musical setting and present it unabashedly and artistically has something to offer that I want to hear. I can't possibly pick just one.
5) What is your favorite style of music for worship?
Almost all of them...from great, crashing organ music to soaring choirs to joyful Latin/African drums to gospel to one little kid lisping out "Jesus Loves Me" to jazz to Taize to a whole congregation cranked up on "Amazing Grace" to the sound of silence. I can't do a steady diet of vapid, simplistic stuff, and I don't really get the rap thing--but I'm willing to try almost anything once, as long as it points to God instead of itself and finds that taproot of reality and joy. I'll leave you with this: