I recently was in the home of some old friends -- a family with a perpetual black cloud overhead. None of its members seem to really like any of the others. They plod along vaguely dissatisfied with their lot in life -- their home, their hometown, their jobs and each other. They don't fight -- there's too much passion in fighting. But they don't have any fun either. Just decades and decades and decades of apathy with no end in sight. Till death do they part.
I tried to think what would help this once-happy family find their way back to the people they once were. Surely there was a spark between the mom and dad at one time or they wouldn't have formed this family in the first place.
Their picture-perfect home has a stifling quietness (not a serene silence, but a resigned stillness).
I realized what was missing -- music. I had never heard any kind of music in that home -- no radio, no stereo, no musical instruments and, certainly, no singing.
What a difference a few well-chosen tunes could make for that family. What song was playing when they fell in love? When was the last time they heard it? When did the music die? The good thing is they can always get it back.
Music can bring the most disparate groups together. Consider how a huge concert hall of strangers becomes a virtual club by sharing ear candy. A milling crowd can be transformed into a block party by adding music. A somber group of churchgoers becomes a congregation of friends when the soulful sounds of a choir raises its voices in celebration.
Anything that moves crowds that easily should have no problem with a small family.
It works for me anyway.
Music can elevate your mood, take you on a stroll down memory lane, energize or calm you. A song can pull you right back to a different era or even a specific moment in your life.
The Beach Boys "Barbara Ann" evokes a memory of a not-yet-walking baby in a playpen singing his first song. That musically inclined moppet, my oldest son Kevin, is a father himself now and still a Beach Boy fan.
John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" brings to mind walking hand-in-hand home from the beach with my next two toddler sons.
My daughter was convinced that Shel Silverstein's "June 25th at the Fourth of July" was written for her because the title matches her birthday.
Norah Jones got me through a rough patch of my life when my husband was hospitalized with a heart attack.
Listening to my parents' cassettes last summer, I let Patti Page, Dean Martin and the Big Bands serenade me through memories of getting ready for school and washing dishes with my sister.
The Rolling Stones rev up my work mood to clean house and New Age or Classical music slow me back down so I can relax in that clean house.
Hard days at work -- like when I'm writing this column -- are enhanced by headphones and Jimmy Buffett.
Blues, rap, rock or reggae are musical busses to very different destinations, but ones I want to ride often.
And the words of Bob Dylan have formed the soundtrack of my life for decades.
Who can be grumpy when Pachibel's Canon or James Brown's "I Feel Good" are playing?
Whether it's John Phillip Sousa or Johnny Cash, Jackson Browne or Michael Jackson, Pink or Green Day or Deep Purple or Moody Blues, MC Hammer or Tool doesn't matter. You can be moved by Willie Nelson, Nelson Eddy, Nelson, Nelly Furtado or Nelly. Just be moved.
Your soundtrack is unique to you. Pull it out of the storage area in your brain and give it a place of honor in your home. It may be the most rewarding accessory your dwelling can have.
Raise your children
Raise your spirits.
Raise the rooftops.
Raise your consciousness.
Raise your voice in praise.
or just raise hell.
Turn up the volume of your life and dance your way through it. It beats shuffling along in silence.
See you next week.