Solace in Song

Louis - Baltimore, Maryland
Entered on January 24, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50

After a month of dating this guy I was admittedly crazy about, I began to wonder if he might just be “the one.” At about that same time, he realized I wasn’t, and he called it quits. Ouch. I was in need of some serious healing.

Enter the pop song. In the weeks following the abrupt end of my short-lived romance, I often found myself gently ambushed by the right song at the wrong time, and tears would bubble up in the most inappropriate situations. Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” got to me from the car radio once while I was doing 70 in the fast lane. I promptly moved two lanes to the right. While on my job as a catering server, the dj played John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” as I was passing hors d’oeuvres at a wedding (cruel irony). I hurried off the floor to avoid crying into my silver tray of stuffed artichoke-hearts. I’m not normally so weepy, but, well, I was a mess. A shrink would have pulled out the prescription pad ten minutes into my first session had I the inclination to schedule an appointment. Not my style. I’ll take a sad tune over a happy pill any day.

I believe in the pop song. Not as musicologist might, but as a poor, working stiff who regularly cranks up the volume. Songs mitigate the dispiriting effects of the daily ho-hum by reconnecting us, briefly yet significantly, to joy, to passion, to hope. And in times of pain, a song has the power to help us heal. All art has this power, I believe, but it is music to which I usually turn for solace.

There was one song in particular that I knew I had to hear. Thanks to YouTube, I stayed up till 3 a.m. one night watching clips of Liza Minnelli singing Kander and Ebb’s “And the World Goes ’Round.” It’s not a victory song, like “I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor’s wonderful, breakup classic. I was not ready for that; I was not yet victorious over my broken heart.

Instead, “And the World Goes ’Round” speaks of acceptance, perhaps best illustrated by this stanza: “Sometimes a friend starts treating you bad/but the world goes ’round./And sometimes your heart breaks with a deafening sound.” Yes, indeed.

This song is rich in unflinching, earthy, simple words, and I needed to hear them. And I needed to hear heartache rendered with such beauty and clarity. And, honestly, I just needed to tearfully (if clumsily) sing along.

One day a coworker, to whom I had related a bit of my sad story, asked how I was doing. I told her I was in “Liza Minnelli Therapy.” “Oh,” she said, chuckling, “My favorite songs have gotten me through many a breakup.” We laughed, and shared a knowing smile.