Are you one of those folks who picks music depending on your mood? You’re feeling sort of down so maybe you put on some Robert Johnson or Hank Williams? Maybe loneliness has set in and you need some Belle & Sebastian? On the positive side, just about everybody has cranked up some rowdy tunes to kick off some good times.
I’m much more likely to push the volume and yell out loud when a great mood takes over. I listened to Springsteen’s “We Take Care Of Our Own” at unhealthy volumes on many, many Friday afternoons when heading home seemed like the best thing in the world (because it was). But when circumstances go gray, I find it almost impossible to get anything out of music. It might as well not be playing because I can’t hear it.
The only time I can remember listening to a song for the purpose of dealing with a situation was when I was pining for a particular person. I couldn’t have her, it seemed. All of my friends told me so. And yet I listened to the song, “I Don’t Want To Wait Anymore” by The Tubes (a goofy choice, I’ll admit), every single day. It turned out that my friends were wrong.
Despite my mood (and whether or not I choose to encircle it with music), one thing is generally true: a song can only serve one mood. If it’s a happy tune, it can’t go with a bad mood. Similarly, sad songs don’t show up for good moods.
But there is one counterexample to all of these rules and that is “The Weight” by The Band. There’s just something about the journey of the story and the vocal bloom of the chorus that can lighten a foul mood and push a good one over the joyous edge. I’ve listened this song in moments of both triumph and despair and it always feels like I’m being lifted off the face of the earth. It’s just amazing what a collection of notes can do.
This morning I’m listening not only to sample that feeling again but to remember a family member who has recently truly left the earth. All of my attempts to write a decent appreciation have failed, with most of them not even up to par with your average drugstore sympathy card. But the impetus to listen was right there. It has never failed me.
We’ll miss you Uncle Henry.