“To me, music is one of the things I couldn’t live without. If I were put on a desert island, I would have to have a solar-powered i-Pod.”
These are the heartfelt words of a 41-year old woman, who has had more than her share of loss but, thanks to her love of music, has been able to grieve and grow in the process. Trained in positive psychology and now working as a coach, she brings a rich perspective to how she views life through the prism of a song’s lyrics and its music.
Music came into her life early. She played clarinet in the school band and sang in the choir. As a college project she undertook a study of the physiological effects of music on bipolar disorder, drawing on a broad range of music–from the California hard rock band “Guns N’ Roses” to Mozart.
For her, music is a trigger, arousing powerful memories and an intense physical response followed by constructive action. A case in point is what happened after the funeral of her 21-year-old cousin who drowned after his snowmobile fell through the ice. Driving home from the cemetery, she listened obsessively to the Elton John song “I believe in Love,” sobbing uncontrollably and wondering whether she should even be on the road in such a condition–“this song was ripping all of this grief out of me.” But listening to it led to a sense of reaffirmation of life and the confidence that she would recover. And in fact, her family went on to establish a fund to train people in the use of special diving equipment to save other lives.
She spoke about other major losses in her life–of both her adoptive parents (she was adopted as a week-old infant), and a longtime very close woman friend. Another Elton John number, “Recover Your Soul,” was especially helpful in enabling her to cope with the death of her adoptive mother. She also loves B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone,” a song that has helped her move beyond her darkest hours to find the good in the bad and be able to count her blessings of close family and friends.
Other musical selections for her are very meaningful in tracing the trajectory of her life. They include Alicia Keyes’ music and its evocations of Mozart harmonies. Also Harry Connick Jr.’s “Booker”–a tribute to pianist James Booker, one of the formative influences on his own life.
Elton John’s “I believe in Love” resonates with conviction that love at its best has no boundaries. See the lyrics. The vocals are grounded by a strong bass, repeating its patterns with a solidity that is reassuring. And the pulse, at 66 beats per minute, slightly below normal , has a calming effect.
And here is B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone.” This Blues, with much the same pulse as the Elton John song, derives its strength from its understatement and the directness and simplicity of its language. At the same time, the lyrics speak of an inner strength, a certain resilience–as a Blues song usually does.
“Although I’ll still live on, But so lonely I’ll be……You know I’m free, free now, baby….”
What songs have helped you cope with grief? Share them in the Comments.