Musical memory

The lovely and multitalented Will Dixon, writer/director/industry suit/blogger, recently posted the question:

What’s the song when you hear in the car that you have to turn up LOUD, or if at home, dance madly around the office?

Will apparently never leaves his office, poor man.

My belated response, the first answer that came to mind, isn’t something I’m all that proud of, which is probably why it’s belated. I had to work up to admitting it. It’s one of those infectious songs that isn’t my favourite by a long shot, isn’t the best I can think of, but it’s the song that, invariably, I have to turn up and sing along with at the top of my tuneless voice. And then my head involuntarily does this funny bobbing thing, side to side.

The song? Hey Ya by Outkast.

Mock away.

It wasn’t until this past Thanksgiving that I discovered why I do that side-to-side head bobbing thing.

I am the twins in the purple dresses. I’d seen the video long ago, but didn’t tie the two together until I was driving in the car when that song came on (on a homemade CD where it’s followed by Ben Heppner singing Nessun Dorma – I’m either eclectic or tone deaf). I had to turn it up, of course, and my passenger recognized the little head dance I was doing.

That’s what music can do to you: it seeps into your bones and your brain and evokes buried memories as well as pure unadulterated joy. Even an inane song like Hey Ya.

The equally-lovely-as-Will-but-for-whole-different-reasons John Doyle, TV critic for the Globe and Mail, wrote a Christmas Eve column “giving thanks to the artists who make it a wonderful life.” He starts with an anecdote of tired and grumpy Christmas shoppers standing in line at a grocery store when Feist’s 1234 started playing, and the crowd’s mood shifted.

In an uncharacteristically sweet article, the usually hilariously cranky Doyle told an anecdote about having seen a pre-Feist Feist on the streets of Toronto, and continued:

I’m sure that some of the people in the store last week have, like me, lived long enough in the area to have passed Leslie Feist on the street, not knowing who she was or not imagining that her talent, her voice would one day bring an important few minutes of joy: A mother and child dancing to the sound of her music in a crowded store full of tired, sullen, stressed people; the mother-and-child being at the heart of the Christmas story that is, in turn, at the heart of the season that was making everyone so frantic and tired.

So I figured that I’d tell you the story so you might know this: Take pleasure in ephemera this season, in the small poetry of passing moments of joy that the most slender elements of the popular culture can bring. And remember that someone created those moments, a writer, a singer, an actor, a musician, someone you’ve passed on the street who had a talent, a gift unknown to you. And when you’re giving gifts, remember that gifts are given to us every day by people we don’t know, would never recognize.

According to the Christian tradition, which dominates the season for better or worse, miracles surrounded Christ’s birth. Well, there is something miraculous too about the pleasure that sweet, ephemeral entertainment can bring. And something miraculous about the creation of it. Enjoy it, whether you find it on television, in music or somewhere else. Take solace in the joy it brings and use the joy to tell someone you love them more.

How beautiful is that? A lot more beautiful than tying an anecdote into some sense memory of a spoof Charlie Brown video. So even though the sentiment is belated for the season intended, it’s worth remembering when we do something as simple as turning up the songs that infect our minds and bob our heads.

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One Response to Musical memory

  1. wcdixon says:

    Wow…now THAT’s a real post, Diane. Lovely.

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