At the risk of sounding tiresome, words have always mattered to me. Spoken or written, they can transport me to another time, place, or emotion in a blink of the eye.
While I would probably rate my own vocabulary as pretty mediocre, I am continually amazed at my great-grandchild’s grasp of words and their meanings since she formed her first word.
When as a child, I read, I often chose stories about fairies, leprechauns and other magical beings. They literally came alive in my mind’s eye and took me wherever they went off on their adventures. I still love fantasy. It has all the good and evil of todays’ world, costumed in a different wardrobe.
I also love mysteries – and enjoy pitting my deductive skills against those of the author. I usually lose, but that is half the fun.
But when I am trying to overcome an obstacle, work through a personal problem or feeling, or clarify just what I am feeling, and why, I go to the poets and lyrists.
Whether it is the lyrics to “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight” or Leonard Cohen’s magnificent “Halleluiah,” particularly the Pentatonix version, I can usually sort things out with their help.
People my age are still listening to the songs of the 60’s and 70’s, and for me, it is because of the lyrics back then. There were the Vietnam War songs, the pleas for peace, the anger, and the passion, especially from the folk singers.
Love songs ranged from the inane (Help Me Rhonda, Help, Help Me Rhonda, Help Me Get Her Out of My Mind, by the Beach Bous immediately comes to mind) to the sublime and were stories and sometimes warnings about men, women, places and things.
Rock and roll was on its way to coming of age, but still in a more juvenile voice. If you have ever seen Sammy Davis Jr.’s rendition of Mr. Bojangles you may have realized that a story was being told about a very special old man coming to the end of his life. I am always left with goosebumps when I watch this video on YouTube.
Speaking of goosebumps, have you ever heard or watched Johnny Cash sing “Hurt”?
John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” feared by the government at that time as an ode to pot smoking, was actually about the beauty and peacefulness of mother nature’s glorious gifts.
I still smile when I recall the uproar Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon” caused for the same reason. A simple tale about a little boy outgrowing his toys, not unlike Christopher leaving Pooh behind, for some, became another reason to fear and hate.
I guess we always find what we look for.
Not all of the singers mentioned above also wrote these songs. But they did deliver them to us, along with a reason to explore new possibilities and/or emotions.
I considered Jim Morrison of the Doors to be one of my generations’ poet laureate. Some of his lyrics stick in my mind to this day and primarily from songs rarely played on the radio.
The old get old
And the young get stronger
May take a week
And it may take longer
They got the guns
But we got the numbers
Gonna win, yeah
We're takin' over
Five to One - The Doors
We are now the old.
And Maya Angelou’s words are what I strive to live by;
“People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This quote is particularly impactful during the month of June.
June is also known as Pride Month, and is especially interesting word wise. There is a whole new vocabulary being used today: some of which I understand and some I don’t. But just because it is not my vocabulary, my lifestyle, or my choice of a life partner, does not make it wrong – just different.
Our local communities have many Pride activities scheduled –check out the JOLT Calendar of Events for more on opportunities to celebrate, support or avoid.
And when in doubt – just turn the music up…