My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary. – Martin Luther
Musical tastes are very subjective and personal. I have a pretty eclectic taste in music. Listening to a wide range of styles and genres brings me great joy. But when times are tough and the walls up ahead are high, I reach for Blues and Jazz music. A common misconception about the Blues is that “singing the Blues” means someone is depressed or suicidal. The opposite is true. When someone has been hit hard by situations in life, divorce, breakup, deep loss, the Blues come drifting up through that darkness to lift the spirit through a kind of musical exorcism.
Blues and Gospel are the ancestors of most American forms of music. There is no denying the shadows of soulful shouts from the fields echoing across the decades to today’s music. In Blues and Soul music the pain flows outward from the aching heart to be cast upon the winds and carried away in cathartic revelations. This is the same for jazz music and rhythms. My mom used to listen to a lot of Big Band jazz music when I was a kid. And that syncopated rhythm grabbed hold of something deep within me. In grade school, I chose to learn the trumpet. I loved the mighty brassy yawps and shouts I could play through that glorious instrument. Through high school and into college, I practiced and reached my potential – never good enough to be a pro, but adequate enough to fill in the lower ranks of the horn section in a university jazz band.
One day our jazz band played a concert in a little high school gymnasium surrounded by a sea of corn. Most of us weren’t much older than the students, so we wanted to impress them with our coolness. After the final note of our first song faded away they roared with thunderous applause. Our soloists each turned to their sections and said, “Let’s blow the roof off this place.” Oh did we raise that roof a few inches that day. We all poured our hearts and souls into our performance. The release of brain candy that day made me understand the thrill of creating music, and why so many of my favorites laughed and smiled onstage. After that, music carried me over so many rough times in my life.
Whether its R&B, Jazz, Rock, Classical, Zydeco, Rockabilly,… whatever is your jam now is the time to purge those dark spirits from your heart and let the Blues pour out in torrent of inspiriting release. Lift your voice in song, like no one is listening, dance like you just don’t care, let it all hang out. Find those songs that remind you of happy times and bang them down onto your eardrums. One of the greatest concerts I ever saw was from the master bluesman, BB King. He gave that show everything he had, even though he was playing at the state fair in my home state. The noises of the midway, the scent of farm animals and cotton filled the air until the first song finished. For the rest of the night the air was filled with musical exultation. That night chased away all solitude and sadness for everyone. As the great poet Robert Burns once said, “Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once”. So let the music play. Peace.