Not Robin Gibb, too! His death isn’t a surprise, of course. He’s been ill for a very long time, but on top of Donna Summer’s death last week his sad departure is particularly poignant. Not only are two great voices hushed, but for some of us who occasionally need their disco fix, listening to their tunes may now elicit a few bittersweet musical memories.
I wrote about my full Disco appreciation last summer and personal praise for that particular musical era here.
Whenever I’m feeling a little at odds with myself or the world-at-large I can count on music to feed whatever the need. Classic Rock is good for a little mental head-banging while a day of Laura Nyro, Norah Jones or Tony Bennett–especially his more contemporary duets, easily brings me closer to bubble center. I have a very large musical library and my tastes run in all directions, so there’s always something from the past or present to accompany mood and complement the current situation.
I began to seriously think about this yesterday while having another Starbucks’ breakfast with Karina. A wheel-chair bound woman rolled up to our table. I’m accustomed to grandmotherly-types engaging with Karina and fully expected that to be the case here. But instead she caught me by surprise, inviting a conversation about the Starbuck’s music playlist. She had come in from the outside just to listen to the music.
She told me how music was important to her, and that she lamented that younger people don’t appreciate music “like we do,” I guess assuming we were the same age. I didn’t bother to argue that I think young people DO appreciate music as much as we do. As Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” began to play she grew so excited I was a little uncomfortable, wondering why I was singled out of a large Starbuck’s crowd for her morning conversation.
I extended our encounter by mentioning that I recently spoke to one of our university students about Simon & Garfunkel and had been greeted by a look of total non-recogntion. After many attempts to find a way to make the reference relevant to him the lightbulb briefly flashed when he noted he “sort of remembered” the song from the movie The Graduate. I seized the moment and found a youtube clip so he could see the genius musicians–he claimed he’d never heard of them. Yikes!
My new Starbucks friend, I found out her name was Sally, used that story to punctuate her position that young people just don’t know and appreciate music. Oh well…
She was going to sit here drinking in the music, no coffee that I could see, and fortunately for me, I had Karina to care for and moved on. It wasn’t an unpleasant encounter and I thought of her all day, wondering how long she’d lingered at Starbucks and hoping she had a good day. She did love music!
I also remembered one other small story illustrating music’s broad appeal and emotional connectivity. Several months ago I was meeting a friend for lunch across the street from work. I arrived early and was sitting facing the door, as well as all the other customers, waiting for my lunch partner to arrive. The background soundtrack wasn’t memorable and was really more of a drone. I barely heard it. But then! All of a sudden…
Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah
Roma, roma, ma
Gaga, ooh, la, la,
Want your bad romance…
The place lit up! Lady Gaga’s distinct and pounding rhythm had my own toes tapping. I looked to my left and a woman was shaking her head, surprisingly unselfconscious. Then I noticed a young man sitting next to her doing the same. It took a moment before I realized that the adults at the table were developmentally delayed. And they were loving this music! They’d been sitting still and non-communicative, but when this song came on, so did they!
The best part of the story was when my eyes locked with the young man’s. When he knew he had my full attention he completely brightened and animatedly began to sing the song–TO ME! Not so much outloud as lip-synching, but he wanted to be sure I KNEW he knew those lyrics. If this had been anyone else I’d have been completely uncomfortable, of course, but it was wonderful! He was so thrilled to share this moment with me…his audience. And I only wish I knew a way to tell Gaga this story. I think she’d me proud!
I’m going to be working today and need a little quieter background sound. No Lady Gaga today. My Pandora station of choice will be Eva Cassidy, another songbird gone too soon. Cassidy died from Melanoma at the unbelievably young age of 33, however, her music has a depth that to me comes from someone much older.
I’ll leave Donna Summer or the Bee Gees for home. It’s impossible to listen to them and remain connected to my office chair!
Are you in a particular music mood today? Feast–and breathelighter!
Singing very quietly…Debra
- You’ve Never Heard Simon And Garfunkel’s ‘Bookends’?! (wnyc.org)
- How Terribly Strange: Paul Simon at 70 (vinylstories.com)
- Mona Elyafi: Donna Summer and Robin Gibb: Their Music Legacy Beyond Disco (huffingtonpost.com)