There is no doubt that songs can be inspirational. Songs are written about all manner of things and because words put to music are often easier to remember than otherwise, songs have been used through the ages to teach and inform as well as sell and influence and even warn.
A national anthem tells the people who sing it how they should feel about their country. And an advertising jingle tells consumers how they should feel about a particular product. So songs “inspire” in more ways than one.
Songs that inspire feelings in me usually have nothing to do with propaganda or consumerism. I use songs in my daily life to motivate me or change how I am feeling about something. For instance, when I am being tailgated by some idiot (I use the word “idiot” freely because tailgating someone while we are all doing 65 miles per hour on a two-lane undivided highway is just stupid) I frequently find myself singing out loud to: (1) distract me from the anxiety the tailgater causes me and (2) help me past the anger it produces in me.
Most often in that situation I find myself singing “Blackbird” by the Beatles. Don’t ask me why that song in particular because I don’t really know. But if the problem continues for quite some time and I need a little more distraction I might start singing “Ghost” by the Indigo Girls. I don’t listen to the radio or play CDs while driving. That’s just too much distraction. I know my limits.
When I am having trouble getting my workout started, I’ll put on a Dirty Vegas album (or something else with a really good beat) and just let it move me around the living room for a while. After a song or two, I’m warmed up and ready to get down to business.
But you know, for the most part, I like silence. What I mean by that is an absence of distracting noises (music, people talking, dogs barking). I can ignore the refrigerator as it cycles or the sound of the neighbor’s hot tub. But anything that has content and meaning is hard for me to ignore. So once I’m warmed up and ready to work out, I turn off the music. I listen to my breathing to be certain I keep it even and regular. I focus on the song the blood in my veins sings as my heart works harder and harder. Of course, hearing my pulse in my ears as I bend over to put my knuckles on the floor might not be such a good thing.
I had an assignment once to write about a song that inspires me. But how could I pick just one? Really. I’m just no good at that. And over time, those songs have changed. And what about songs that don’t actually “inspire” (I tend to think of that word in terms of inspiring to create) but instead simply make your heart soar with joy and make colors bloom behind the lids of your closed eyes … or sink to the very brink of despair. And there are songs that are good simply for no other reason than that they are good.
However, years ago there was a song by Dan Fogelberg titled “Nether Lands” that would almost always make me cry and I couldn’t tell you what I was feeling. That song alone caused me to buy a book of his songs for the piano (“Complete Songs, Volume I”) in which I found so many other songs that were simply wonderful and evocative. Something I read by another blogger this morning reminded me of this and other songs that have inspired me over the years. But “Nether Lands” still stands out:
“High on this mountain the clouds down below I’m feeling so strong and alive.
From this rocky perch I’ll continue to search for the wind and the snow and the sky.
I want a lover and I want some friends and I want to live in the sun …
And I wanna do all the things that I never have done.”
Those are the words of the first verse and the melody fits the words so well that it makes my heart ache. Check out the full lyrics of the song when you have a spare moment and maybe you will find something inspiring in them too.