The other day I was in conversation with a friend, specifically sharing song lyrics that iNSPiRE us in some way. The conversation had started out light enough – did we love the new MADONNA song GiRL GONE WiLD or … not so much? Our views on MADONNA aside the conversation steered away from her and more towards the direction of citing lyrics that have left an impression or were/remain significant on some level (often in a healing or comforting way). Music can hold all kinds of meaning to people, and to each of us a song will stand out for whatever reason we a drawn to – rhythm, voice, what have you – in this instance we were referring to the meaning of a good lyric. Song writing can be a powerful art/tool.
Let me share a personal story. The year was 1992, so this was 20 years ago now. I was 13 years old and struggling very much at school, from a social perspective. You know the story: delicate gay boy conflicted by life in a small mining community up north of what seemed nowhere. I was a decent student, certainly not at the top of the class but I did well enough. Not involved in sports, I didn’t have the confidence to participate in real interests like band, choir or drama classes. Incredibly shy and insecure as well as unabashedly gay – there was no hiding what came natural to me, making me susceptible to being on the receiving end of enough ridicule. Those were and are arguably still the times but that was my reality, along with many others everywhere around the world, although I would only grow to really grasp this in future years.
Bullying was a regular part of life, as was music. I could spend the day at school, invisible or ostracized, yet I could always rely on coming home to where it felt safe. This was usually in my room, listening to music, writing, playing and singing. I was not sharing these difficulties with adults around me – for this is what fear and shame can do to a young and developing mind. I did however turn to music. I found that lyrics were as important to me as any beautiful melody; my natural affinity was to gravitate towards music that lent itself to story-telling, confessions – and I had no shortage of music to listen to; NEiL YOUNG, JONi, JAMES TAYLOR and of course, MiSS DOLLY PARTON. I could always find peace or calm with music. At the very least, sweet escape.
If any of you can remember the movie STRAiGHT TALK (which came out in 1992 and there is NO shame if you do remember!) you must recall the song at the opening credits of the film, you know where SHiRLEY KENYON (DOLLY) ditches her small town life for CHiCAGO in search of her big dreams. The song that opens STRAiGHT TALK is called LiGHT OF A CLEAR BLUE MORNING. Here are some lyrics:
Its been a long dark night
And Ive been a waitin for the morning
Its been a long hard fight
But I see a brand new day a dawning
I’ve been looking for the sunshine
Cause I aint seen it in so long
But everythings gonna work out just fine
Everythings gonna be all right
That’s been all wrong
Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of a brand new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
And everythings gonna be all right
Its gonna be okay
When I picture my 13 year old self watching this film & enjoying it for the escapism it provided – these lyrics did not register. I knew little of hope – I didn’t know what it meant to SEE THE LiGHT OF A CLEAR BLUE MORNiNG, much less what it meant to feel like EVERYTHiNGS GONNA BE ALL RiGHT. This was not my state of mind at the time; I was in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety, hopeless and holding all said fears inside due to the intense apprehension of judgment. Like so many stories of gay boys and girls, or just any youth struggling with depression and isolation the only thing on my mind was escaping the pain – the iMMEDiATE pain of which I could not see my way out of.
At 13 years of age I attempted suicide as the summer of 1992 wrapped up and it became time to re-enter school for grade 8. The fear of the unknown and the anticipation that life was always going to be surrounded in this kind of energy and treatment became too much, and no song or lyric could reach me or help me escape that reality. I have no shame in telling this story, in fact I know that having come out on the winning end of it all (unlike so many unfortunate stories) it gave me the keys to my freedom and it eventually liberated me. The details of the story are less important but what is important is that I received that help, and although it took those serious actions from me, adults in my life (including family and the school board) had no choice to to hear this cry for help from a youth in severe crisis. Fortunately I did receive support and slowly but surely began my healing path. Of course I will always remain grateful for those who rallied around this former self – to help build a stronger foundation.
To bring it back to music and the power of lyric, many years later I found myself randomly listening to LiGHT of a CLEAR BLUE MORNING somehow, and just like that <CLiCK> – something about the familiarity of the song in context to that former place and time went on like a light switch and I realized the essence of the song; EVEN WHEN THE SKY IS GREY AND FULL OF CLOUDS – THE SUN IS BEHIND THOSE CLOUDS – JUST WAITING TO COME OUT made more sense to me than ever before. Though the memories had long since been buried of that time and place, like the Universe sort of nudging me along my path I found myself finding a certain resolve and appreciation for the pasts effect on my being in the present. To me this defines finding meaning in lyric – hence the healing power of art.
The power of these specific lyrics hit me and I found it serendipitous back then and even today. It was impossible for that 13year old boy to see what treasures life could behold – and although life as an adult has its own pressures and challenges, one always has to hold on to that hope for a better tomorrow. Typing the words I know they look and sound cliche but that’s just the real way it is. The message was there for me although it did take me some time to make a connection.
Today this is why I find myself curious and interested in hearing from other people. Is there a song or a lyric out there that holds for you great power and meaning? If so - TELL ME YOUR STORY!! – share it in any way you can, as you can rest assured that the meaning it holds for you has the capacity to impact another person as well, and for the better. I’d love to hear what you have to say!