For most of my life I adamantly denied I like Country music. I only saw it as a twangy, sappy heartbroken music that subjugated women to men. Then something happened. Like everything else, I realized an entire genre can’t be defined in only one way. It’s a diverse, multifaceted, constantly evolving sound like any other. And once I listened to the variety of options, I realized how much I enjoy the label- Country music. I’m not ready to admit I’m an ardent fan, but there are some tunes I not only love, but bought and listen to all the time. They run the gambit from sad, thoughtful, and poignant to silly and fun.
The concept of music speaking to us is nothing new. Music has always been a way to pass on a tribe’s history or share past events. It’s often been a rallying cry to get people motivated to action. In the Depression era, Woody Guthrie sang about the horrors caused after the banks crashed in 1929. The decade that followed he created his most famous song – “This Land Is Your Land”. In the Vietnam War era the air waves were bombarded by artists singing anti-war tunes. And after 9-11, a mass of patriotic songs covered the radio, making it clear nothing and no one could ever snuff out our light or keep us down.
Music can lift our souls, give us hope, make us sad or help us think in ways we never thought before. It can make us remember a happier, or sadder, time. I’ll never forget the song playing at my first dance, by The Beatles “Come Together”. Every time I hear it I’m immediately transported to that innocent, safer time when anything seemed possible. Just a few years later songs like – “For What It’s Worth” -brings back the horrifying moment I heard the news my brother’s birth date was number one in the first ever lottery for the Vietnam draft.
Folk songs have been around forever, just with different labels. They give a brief look at a particular moment in time. What we were feeling, dealing with, and struggling to understand. That’s what I find so enticing about Country music today. It’s folk music quality.
Music feeds our soul and lightens our hearts. It joins us together in ways that few senses can. It’s one of the few communal activities we still share. Whether it’s at a concert, religious facility, dance, or bon fire, it joins together a group, all focusing on one thing- the music and what it means to them.
I saw Elton John in person at the Tucson Community Center, years ago. 9,000 people all singing and dancing to a music that lifted us up. We all shared an intimate reminder of our common goals and wishes. Beatlemania carried a similar hold on people- where young and old joined together as one, sharing a moment where age becomes irrelevant to the music that crosses all generations. During the holidays, specific songs conjure up memories of family members and special moments long gone. I always got a kick out of my daughters surprise that I knew all the words to songs she was singing. Unaware they were just remakes from decades ago. Some music surpasses age, gender, race, time and shines a light on what we’re feeling and where we’re going.
Music can get us moving. Try staying still to a song like Ricky’s “Eye of the Tiger”. Whether you dance or not, your toes have their own direct link to the beat. We’ve all been moved by particular songs that spoke to us in specific circumstances. It affects our mood in so many ways. Even enhancing learning and improving recall, helping us to pay attention or making an otherwise boring task more enjoyable so we’re more effective at our tasks. When we listen to a rhythm, it actually becomes a part of us, causing our heart to sync with it.
According to studies a slow heartbeat with a strong diastolic pressure tells our brain that something sad or depressing is occurring. Very fast beating has to do with excitement, while a dreamy rhythm with occasional upbeats can be a sign of love or joy. Tones are just as important as rhythm. A “major key” music piece will usually signal cheerful communication to our brain, while “minor key” pieces are sadder. This all has a very strong effect on our brain, causing chemicals like serotonin and dopamine to be released which encourages feelings of happiness, allowing us to feel what’s being communicated.
Music can make us feel joyful, sad, angry, hyped up, or relaxed. Sometimes all during one song. It can change our mood or exacerbate an existing one. Ever feel angry and sad only to perk up when listening to an empowering upbeat song? Or dropped into despair when a song about heartbreak reminds us of a past loss? I remember hearing music in the womb could impact my baby. Yes, I was one of those crazy ladies wearing headphones on my belly! I played everything from classical, bluegrass, jazz, hip hop, country, and old world. The irony was it opened my own ears to a variety beyond the what I heard everyday on the radio station I never changed. Now the opportunity is endless with free options like I Heart Radio and Pandora. So next time you bring up a tune, try a new, completely different genre. It may amaze and change the way you look at the day.