Music Soothes The Savage Beast

A song came on my car radio the other day that I hadn’t heard in a long time, and it suddenly brought me back to my teenage years, my first car and my first 8-track cassette, “Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.”

It struck me how hearing the song (Something’s Burning) from that era instantly brought me back several decades, like I was the main character in a Stephen King novel.

I swear I smelled the oil burning in my old Ford Galaxy 500 and heard the faint squeaking of the playback heads turning in the 8-track player I myself had installed, along with a couple of Jensen speakers.

If I didn’t know better I’d say I could feel the dust in my throat and see the dust cloud behind me in my rear-view mirror as I tooled down gravel country roads.

It is amazing what strong impact music has on people, both the people hearing it and the people playing it.

There aren’t too many people who aren’t moved by some kind of music. Music really can define people, or maybe it’s the other way around; maybe people impact the sort of music that is created…maybe it’s both.

Music can move people to action, or at least aid in propelling them.

There are so many different genres of music for so many different emotions, but at some level they all represent basic human feelings: love, hate, peace, rage, serenity, chaos. In short, all the complicated, conflicting, sometimes inexplicable emotions that make humans, well, human.

I know I’m not saying anything new here. Music has been psychoanalyzed for centuries. Every era has its music and reflects some attitude or social conundrum.

Heck, when you think about it, parks and rec professionals use music in many programs and activities in order to set a tone or elicit a response.

Music touches every aspect of our lives, from cradle to grave. I know for a fact that babies in utero hear and react to music.

When my wife was pregnant with our youngest son, I would play guitar and sing, and when the baby heard me sing Elvis’ “Hound Dog,” he would jump and flip. But when I played a lullaby I wrote for him, he would settle right down.

After he was born, he reacted the same way to both songs.

I don’t think that music is given its due recognition. In the scheme of things, music is often relegated to the “non-essential services” category, and we all know what that means.

But like so many things in that largely undefined category, the impact of these things on the “essential” is much greater than anyone can define.

It is often looking back that we discover how important music was to an era, or to us personally; hindsight as they say is always 20-20. When we’re in the midst of life it’s not always easy to separate the essential from the non-essential; it’s easy to forget you came to drain the swamp when you’re up to your derrière in alligators.

I have consciously learned over the years to appreciate music and I try to remember what it is about certain songs that move me.

For example, there’s a song that the Zac Brown Band plays called, “Knee Deep.” It moved me the very first time I heard the introduction, which is a zippy little mandolin riff. But the whole song carries me to a lighter place in my mind, and whenever I am feeling boxed in by life, I play it and sing along with it and invariably I feel better. It brightens my spirit every time I hear it.

The words and rhythm of that song are specific medicine for specific maladies in my soul. There are other songs that are medicinal in other ways; for me, music is an essential. Life would be pretty empty without it, IMHO.

How about you guys? Does music do this for you? Or is a clever ditty just a “non-essential?” What are some songs that take you away?

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, who also served until recently in municipal parks and recreation, lives in Peachtree City, Ga., and can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email