This I Believe

Mark - Setauket, New York
Entered on December 29, 2006

Rock and Roll Can Save Lives

by Mark Jackett

I believe rock and roll can save lives.

I remember hearing Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam say years ago that if not for The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” he probably would have killed himself as a teenager.

My own rock and roll salvation was not as dramatic but no less important in my life. I was nineteen years old, had just completed my freshman year of college. During the spring semester, I had started hanging around with a girl who was a sophomore. We spent a lot of time together, talked a lot, listened to a lot of good music, wrote each other poetry. I thought it was something special.

Summer comes along and we’re both back at home, about four hours away from one another by car. We’re writing letters several times a week, again filled with poetry, talking on the phone, things are great. Then I get the brain-dead idea to hop on a bus and go visit her, surprise. Good idea when you’re older, everyone’s living in their own place. Not so good when the girl is still living with her parents. We had a very nice weekend, but once I got home, that was it. The letters dwindled to a trickle, and when they did come they were meaningless. Being a young, stupid kid, I started drinking. A lot.

And then I heard an album by Bob Dylan called Blood on the Tracks.

I had never read any Italian poets from the thirteenth century, but when Dylan sang about it on “Tangled Up in Blue,” I thought of all the words I had “written in my soul from me to you.” “Idiot Wind” fed my anger, “If You See Her, Say Hello” my sense of loss. This is, of course, known as Dylan’s “divorce album,” and it was exactly what I needed to get me through what for me, at the time, was the same kind of experience.

And now it’s thirteen years later, I’m happily married, have two kids, and actually my old friend, who I still keep in touch with, just had a baby girl of her own. And rock and roll is still saving my life every day. Whenever I need a little jolt, whenever I need to feel alive after a day of having my spirit drained by this challenge we call modern life, all I have to do is pop in a little Stones or maybe some James Brown, and I am at peace and flying through the ceiling, all at the same time.

No, I’ve never been suicidal, but rock and roll has saved my life by keeping me young.

And today, we need to save rock and roll.

And that won’t happen through government legislation or the goodwill of the record companies. It will only happen by people like you and me saying to other people, especially kids, “Here, listen to this!”

I don’t care what people say, rock and roll is here to stay.