Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Continuing a theme from yesterday, the theme being "general cluelessness," I would like to discuss the inappropriate musical soundtrack of my life.

I'm not a big fan of American Idol (the last time I tuned in was when Clay Aiken was a contestant), but I do catch highlights on The Soup. Joel McCale featured a contestant who decided to dedicate his rendition of "Let's Get it On"... to his father.

Let's all take a moment to ponder the ewwwwwwwww factor of that. In addition to the fact that the song is about, um, doing it, it is also inappropriate because Marvin Gaye's father murdered him.

So, hmmmm, perhaps not the best choice to dedicate to dear ol' dad.

I laugh, but I just as often make bizarre song choices in my own life. I don't pay much attention to lyrics; I like a song because of the beat, melody, and general peppiness. Consequently, I find myself in all sorts of trouble.

When I was a new teacher, I thought I would be "young" and "hip" and play music while my students wrote. I would never do this today. One day, I put in a Soul Coughing CD. Until that particular day, I had never caught the full meaning of the following lyric: "Her knees, thrust in one direction/Like a symbol in math, a symbol meaning Greater Than"

Oops. Since all I had heard in previous listens was "math," I thought, "Oh, cool, I'm being cross-curricular."

This continued through the years, but really has come to a head now that I have to consider the innocent ears of my offspring. And general common sense, for that matter.

For example, when Owen had his first birthday, I briefly considered doing a slide show with a song from Neutral Milk Hotel in the background. We had listened to this group a lot right before Owen was born, and I'll always link trombones and the singer's whiny-yet-beautiful voice with that time.

So, it seemed a natural fit to link the images of that first, unforgettable year with these lyrics: "What a beautiful face I have found in this place/That is circling all round the sun" Owen was my beautiful face, a face I discovered in a hospital delivery room. Despite the fact that the Earth continued its axis around the sun, everything paused for a beautiful moment the day he was born.

The lyrics continue, "What a beautiful Dream/Like a flash on a screen/in a blink of an eye it's gone from me." And that's where the metaphor falls apart. The song, a lovely meditation about the fleeting, temporary nature of life, had no place at a BABY'S birthday party. There would be no thinking of death while my son smeared frosting all over his face.

And there wasn't. I decided, probably to the relief of the guests, to scrap the whole slide show idea.

When Joel was hospitalized at Hopkins, I remember sitting in the car, gearing up for another long drive to Baltimore. I was feeling tired, a little weepy, and decided that a mix CD of cheesy Nineties music was just what I needed. I turned it on and heard the following bit of wisdom from Chumbawamba, "I get knocked down/And I get up again/You're never going to keep me down." This is a repetitive song, so that particular lyric is repeated about thirty thousand times over the course of the song. And wouldn't you know, it worked. I listened to that song and mentally put my war paint on. Joel wasn't breathing on his own, things were scary, but, by God, Paul and I were going to get through this thing. We were not going to be kept down by worry or fear or anger.

Of course, the next lyrics, detailing the consumption of whisky, vodka, cider, and lager drinks was perhaps not the best advice for a woman who was pumping milk for her newborn every three hours.

I haven't gotten any better at listening to the lyrics. I was digging this Decemberists song, "The Rake," blasting it in the car as I drove the boys around and about. It turned out to be a ditty about a man murdering his three children in gruesome fashions.

Just today, I was listening to another Decemberists song, "Yankee Bayonet." Perhaps I should have learned my lesson with this group (not to mention the fact that a bayonet is part of the title), but of course I remained oblivious.

It's a pretty duet, where the male and female vocalists sing to each other, "I will be home again." How nice. Today, though, for the first time, I realized that the male singer would be home---in a wooden box. Because he was killed. Guess how?

Ding! Ding! Ding! A Yankee bayonet.

Perhaps I should stop listening to such violent lyrics and live on a steady diet of Moby.



Coby Goesling said...

Might I suggest that you start listening to classical music? You can't go wrong with NO lyrics! ;-)

There were a lot of Prince songs that I listened to when I was a kid, and now that I know what they're about, I can't believe my parents let me listen to them!!! (Little Red Corvette, in particular)

Nancy Campbell said...

Reading over this, I feel the need to defend the Decemberists, because most of the songs are based on old folk songs or English ballads.

They aren't just sickos.

Coby--Prince is a dirty birdy.

Coby Goesling said...

Uh-huh...folk songs and English're a former English's history and modern culture/music fusing together in order to reach a new generation, right? Nice try. ;-)

Yes, Prince IS a dirty-birdy.