Songs you can't live without

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Jan. 10, 2002

Dear Julie,

Huge receivers listen for signs of life in the universe. Walt Whitman heard America singing. Our new beagle Alvie, who perhaps dogged birds in his previous wanderings, lies on the floor of the room where DC's parakeets and finches live, hungrily attentive to their songs. Off Maui a few years ago, DC swam with humpback whales whose songs, like a classical composer's, are constructed from many different themes.

The universe is always singing.

At the end of the movie "The Postman," the poet Pablo Neruda returns to visit the Italian island where he once lived idyllically. He learns that Mario, a postman he befriended, has been accidentally killed at a political rally. Mario could barely read when Neruda moved to the island and cared nothing for politics. Neruda showed him how to woo a woman with words, the meaning of the word metaphor, and that loving your home is a political act.

Mario was to read his poem, "Song for Pablo Neruda," at the rally.

Mario's wife, Beatrice, plays Neruda a tape recording Mario made for him. Mario had recorded not the poem but the sound of waves, seagulls and church bells.

There are some songs we can't live without.

My Top 10:

1. "Walk Away Rene" (a melody and an ache for the ages)

2. Barber's "Adagio for Strings" (Barber captured a sequence of celestial sounds that seems hardwired into my brain's emotional center.)

3. Soundtrack to "The Mission" (simple music, sacred feelings)

4. "London Calling" by the Clash (The song that restored my post-disco faith in rock 'n' roll.)

5. Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" (The love song of love songs. "You are in my blood like holy wine/You taste so bitter and so sweet." You might as well throw in the rest of the album. Almost every song is a classic.)

6. Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" (The whole album. The combination of desperation and determination and poetry and slashing guitars is irresistible and sold lots of black leather jackets).

7. Neil Young's "Comes a Time" (Most people would pick "Harvest" for its rich vein of great songs, but songs like "Comes a Time" and "Four Strong Winds" are like old friends.

7. "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye (Oooooo, ooooooo.)

8. Jackson Browne's "For Everyman" (Kind of a Buddhist "Desiderata.")

9. "Head and Heart" by John Martyn, a little known English singer/guitarist. (Jazzy, acoustic, sensual)

10. Anything by Sarah McLachlan (If angels sing this sweetly, I'm going to start trying harder to get into Heaven).

DC's list:

1. Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" (DC says it reflects her soul.)

2. Mozart's "The Magic Flute" (More identification.)

3. Puccini's "Turandot." (Princess has heads chopped off of suitors who can't figure out her riddles. Yet more identification? Should I be scared?)

4. Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" (For the brilliant construction.)

5. Orff's "Carmina Burana" (DC heard the San Francisco Symphony perform this 15 years ago and sang it locally with the Choral Union a few years ago. Stirring.)

6. "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" (Marvin Gaye version. The dogs dance around when DC sings it to them.)

7. Anything by Miles Davis (DC thinks he's too good to be human.)

8. Ry Cooder's "Buena Vista Social Club" (She has always wanted to live in Cuba.)

In some movies, Fred Astaire dances to the rhythms of machines. DC says Fred Astaire could hear the universe singing better than most people can.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: