October 6, 2005

To Live on Saturn

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Over the weekend I attended a job-training workshop where I discovered that I am an “auditory learner.” Traits of an auditory learner include “especially enjoying verbal information and music,” and oh, they’re easily distracted. I’m telling you, it was like reading the story of my life, especially the music part. I can’t pinpoint the exact date and time when I fell in love with music, but when I was in elementary school, I saw Earth, Wind, and Fire with my dad and I became increasingly hooked. The crowd’s energy and the energy on stage were beautiful. Two of the first recordings I ever owned were Crazy Sexy Cool by TLC (on a cassette, imagine that) and the Fugees’ The Score. Both were my first glimpses into the endless creativity and expression possible with music.

There are so many reasons why I love music. You can tell stories through song, or be as figurative as imaginable. The essence of music is that thing Erykah Badu calls the love of her life in “An Ode to Hip-Hop.” It’s what made Eric Sermon spit a rhyme devoted to it, how various musical genres were born and why filmmaker Cameron Crowe painstakingly hand selects his movie soundtracks to utter perfection. It’s what dreams are made of, and what inspires us, moves us,and makes us cry. It truly is the soundtrack of our lives. Just one song can take you back to another time and place; resurfacing memories from way back when. There’s this song by Rod Stewart that reminds my mother of her first months in America. My dad remembers hearing Jimmy Cliff on the radio in 1978. Listening to “Glycerine” brings me back to middle school.

Music conveys the simplest and most complex of human emotions – love, happiness, sadness, anger, angst, boredom – sometimes all in one song. It’s how women’s names are made infamous in rock history like Eric Clapton’s “Layla” and Tom Petty’s suggestive Mary Jane.

It’s why Jimmi Hendrix, Elvis and Jim Morrison are all immortalized. It’s the way that people from all different walks of life remember the exact notes of Jimmi’s guitar solo in “Purple Haze” or the way Morrison drawled “C’mon baby light my fire.”

It’s what can possibly connect human beings around the world if we’d let it. Music has been used to define cultural movements and start revolutions. It has raised awareness about atrocities and preached consciousness to the masses. It’s what made Bob Marley sing songs like “Exodus” and Buffalo Soldier.”

It stirs up controversy. And it doesn’t matter what it is. Not that I am the type of person to list “Everything but Country” as my favorite music, but I think anything that means something can mean something to me.

Even more so, music is a way to escape. You don’t have to wonder why every subway passenger has their iPod speakers on blast riding the train to work on Monday mornings with the hopes of warding off the disillusionment and anxiety of this wary world’s maze for their half hour commute. I am reminded of “Saturn” by Stevie Wonder, which has been on my most recent playlist, partly because Liz Phair recently recorded a horrendous cover of the tune, but also because it’s just an amazing song. Stevie sings of a blissful utopia, a “place where the air is clean – there’s no sense to sit and watch people die – we put back all the things we use.” On Saturn, there’s no crime and no “Killing helpless men, women and children / That don’t even know what they’re dying for…” Sounds like my kind of place.

Last week a land-owning South African was convicted for feeding a farm worker to lions. On Talk Radio, Bill Bennett, bluntly suggested aborting “every black baby in this country,” to lower the crime rate. “That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down,” he added.

972 bodies have been recovered in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. News reports abound about a potentially lethal bird flu on the horizon and highly scientific guesstimating by the U.N. reveal that a whopping five to 150 million people around the world could be infected. More terrorist attacks, scares, frightening possibilities and revealed vulnerabilities emerge daily to inspire fear in the hearts of man.

So much hate and destruction in these uncertain times of ours, and change seems to be the only reliable constant. Why not turn it up, tune out and hum a song for a little while?

Archived article by Sophia Asare
Sun Staff Writer