Only Connect

Very early one morning a few weeks ago, as I was sitting down for my daily writing session, I saw a tweet from one of my closest friends, with a link to a YouTube video.  Now, this friend and I, we go back a long way.  And because I love this friend, and because he has probably the most refined musical taste of anyone I know, I clicked on the link.   Imagine my surprise when a performance by James Taylor, of all people, popped up.

But if that was surprise, it was nothing compared to my astonishment when, an hour or so later, all I’d done was to click “replay” again and again and again.

Not one word was written that morning.

I am not a James Taylor fan.  A vague awareness of “Fire and Rain” was the extent of my knowledge of his work until that morning – so I hadn’t heard this song, “Shower the People,” before.  But its simple beauty forged an immediate and profound connection with me, and I’ve been unable to get it out my head ever since.

When Taylor stops playing his guitar at about the 3:30 mark is the goosebump moment for me (I’m getting goosebumps as I type this, just thinking about it.)  There’s just singing.  All you hear are unadorned human voices – Taylor, the chorus on the screen behind him, and the audience.  Taylor is bringing all of these people – strangers, for the most part – along with him on his journey.  What strikes me again and again is the strength of the connection he’s made, through the words and music that were inside his head.  All of those people, singing together, as one.  It’s just beautiful.

Whether you’re a songwriter or an artist, a poet or a novelist, what you yearn for is to forge that connection with the person you’re trying to reach.

And although watching this video still makes me a little sad, I’m glad beyond words that my friend posted it.  It reminds me of the exquisite power of song to reach deep into each of us and winkle out raw emotion, often when we least expect it.  Beautiful music can beat down the most obdurate of emotional defenses.  I can bury my feelings away and try and inoculate myself against feeling too much of anything, but a perfect song can still crack me open and make me cry like a baby.  It connects with me, engages me; it makes me feel .  And in doing so, it reminds me that I’m alive.  And isn’t that, in the end, what all art should do?

Enjoy the music.

Comments 6

  1. This has always been one of my favorite James Taylor songs — for all the reasons you’ve stated. But I’ve never seen this video so thank you so much for sharing. I so agree that beautiful music can make us feel; I also think the same is true of beautiful words. Thanks for sharing, Alex!

  2. Always been a James Taylor fan. I haven’t heard anybody else write or sing music like that in recent years–music that hits you in the heart, and echoes exactly what you’re thinking.
    I referred to his “Mexico” in a blog piece of mine last week, on music and travel; that song makes you want to head south of the border NOW!

  3. I’m a huge JT fan. His song “Something in the Way” was my wedding song. I’ve been to many of his concerts. His voice is more pure live than it is recorded.

    This was such a beautiful reminder of the power of art and the importance of audience. The reader is as important, or more important, than the story we put in his hands. It’s an interaction that–when done well–creates a lifelong impression.

    Great post.

  4. Post

    Thanks, all. Great comment, Erika – yes, the reader’s importance can’t be over-estimated. We just tell stories. What matters is how the reader reacts to them.

  5. Beautiful song, beautiful post. Thanks for putting that up. It was a wonderful way to begin my day, putting me in just the right mindset to work with my heart and my head, which is what a writer must do if they’re going to connect with their readers. Thank you again, have a wonderful day!

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