This column is not the first I’ve devoted to music, and there’s every chance it won’t be the last. Not by a long shot. As the world keeps spinning faster and faster – seemingly, at least – and things we’d never have imagined experiencing nor witnessing in our lifetime are becoming daily occurrences, music remains a constant, almost no matter the genre. More and more people are awakening to the fact that it’s becoming harder and harder to handicap what “tomorrow” might bring. And if there’s something – or some things – that you absolutely want to accomplish, you’d best make it, or them, happen.
One of my first memories was at about age two-ish, standing in my playpen in our den, holding onto its bars and swaying to strains of The Student Prince, a 1924 operetta that was one of my dad’s favorites. Its “Drinking Song” was popular among theatergoers at that time, as the country was in the midst of Prohibition. Meanwhile, my mom adored the at-that-time youthful Frank Sinatra, and hummed or sang songs he made popular as she buzzed around our house.
As a result, my musical tastes run the eclectic gamut, from classical and hymns, to reggae and folk songs, to love ballads and hard rock. The last is thanks to the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, which brought me musically up to speed way later than the ‘80s, when the equine racetrack was my focus. Ahh, that Freddy Mercury!
I definitely digress, and will jump back on track by disclosing that my favorite music is country. Period. Country music talks about life and its problems, about looking for love in all the wrong places, but rejoicing when the real thing walks into your life, whether she’s in tight Daisy-Mae cutoffs sippin’ a White Claw, or he’s sporting jeans, muddy boots, and a JR Nation t-shirt. Full disclosure here: upbeat country is great driving music, while the down-and-out themes are just so sad, whether old or new country. In my opinion – which was shaped by watching Grand Ole Opry on TV with my dad every Saturday night – no one in either camp will ever be able to touch “Lonesome George” Jones for heart-wrenchers.
Music can provide a luscious escape from the status quo and that in turn, can bring the ol’ blood pressure right down. Not unlike a hot bath in the midst of turmoil. Remember the slogan “Calgon, take me away”?
That said, though I love country tunes, it’s the lyrics telling somebody’s story or somebody’s memory, or somebody’s advice or wisdom that often captivate me, wake me up, and bring me back to the earth, away from the smoky ethers of politics, dicey behavior, and “my way or the highway” thinking. I’m often driving when I hear a new song that speaks my mind and my exact feelings right back to me. When that occurs and I’ve listened to whatever track happens to catch my attention, I’ll give a loud “Wa-hoo!” as if I were in the Ryman Auditorium audience.
And I always appreciate the fact that country songwriters and singers still embrace the principles I grew up believing. And still do. You know, being nice to someone you know or may even not know – holding the door for a package-laden patron at the post office, going the extra mile to thank a stranger who has gone out of their way to help you, bringing flowers home on a day your wife or husband has had an extra-tough day, or like a complete stranger at Dallas-Fort Worth airport did for me, picking up the tab for the person in line behind you. Especially with travel as potentially stress-producing as it is these days. Trust me, you’ll make someone’s day.
Moving on from being nice, to taking time to plant seeds of love and joy in the hearts of those you care about, including Number One, i.e. yourself! We’ll start with your friends and family. How many times has someone close to you asked you to go with them to an event, help with a project, or lend a hand with anything that might require an investment of time on your part…but you demurred because your calendar was slammed. Even if it was someone you really wanted to connect with doing something you really wanted to do. Perhaps go fishing with your grandpa, pick up a few groceries for a housebound friend, help your brother clean out his boat to get it ready for summertime, write a note (Remember those?) to a former classmate, or even take a catch-up chat walk on the Spanish Moss Trail with someone you met in a yoga class and want to get to know better.
This is the territory that Texas singer-songwriter and former competitive bull rider Cody Johnson leads listeners into. Although he’s been active in country music since 2006, somehow I missed him until his song “Til You Can’t” caught my attention one evening on the way home from working out. I have a feeling we’ve all experienced those “Man, I wish I could have a do over” moments when it’s too late for one. In his lyrics Johnson gives concrete examples of “if onlys” that ring true enough to motivate you into action to avoid the sinking feeling that can be overwhelming when you keep putting off doing something or seeing someone you were counting on until the door slams shut on that opportunity, and you feel like kicking yourself.
“So take that phone call from your momma and just talk away
‘Cause you’ll never know how bad you wanna til you can’t someday
Don’t wait on tomorrow ‘cause tomorrow may not show
Say your sorries, your I-love-yous, ‘cause man you never know”
Wise words from this 35-year-old country sensation.
That same idea applies to you, yourownself. Is your life headed in a direction that appeals to you, that allows you to use your strengths and to spend time with people who feed your soul, that actually brings you joy? Think about it. If another path keeps niggling at you, might it be possible to give it a try, even if trying entails stepping into fear? Especiallyif trying entails stepping into fear. Often fear surrounds a glorious outcome.
If your heart says, “Give it a try,” and it feels right, forge ahead. You’ll never have to wonder “What if?” As part of the chorus of Johnson’s song urges:
“If you got a chance, take it, take while you got a chance
If you got a dream, chase it, ‘cause a dream won’t chase you back…”
Go on. Grab that dream by the tail and hang on.