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.