A Hazy Shade of Summer
Newcastle — You have doubtless noticed that Music That Moves Me has returned to Maine Public Broadcasting (yes, I’m still listening to NPR despite previous remonstration.) I believe the series originated under the tutelage of the talented Suzanne Nance, with a slight prodding from friend Aaron Robinson (author of Does God Sing?) I’m probably wrong, but it doesn’t matter because there is no truth, only illusion. I rant.
I generally tune out the MTME stories, because I find them egocentric and at odds with my Buddhist tendency towards “No Self.” However, this does not preclude my fantasizing on my personal predilection, and I find that I, like you, am moved and always have been by some music. OK, what?
In 1970, when I was still in Ann Arbor, I recall piloting my then current vehicle (a Corvair; unsafe at any speed—wonderful car) in the direction of Michigan’s football stadium (for reasons long forgotten) when the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” rose from the radio’s speakers. It was my first hearing of this ballad. I pulled to the curb (safely), something not done before or since, to listen. “Troubled water,” you bet! Then, before, now, and probably forever. Where’s the bridge?
I was motivated by this experience to buy all the Simon and Garfunkel albums, six in total, and I still play them on my faithful gramophone, beginning with Wednesday Morning, 3AM (1964) and ending with Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970). I also have all their songs on one of those horrid little digital things, but these compare very unfavorably with the original analogue recordings.
It’s not just the music, or the masterful guitar playing that moves me. I believe Paul Simon may be my favorite poet. His lyrics are not short of sublime. I feel this way because they resonate with me. I personalize them. “A Most Peculiar Man;” that would be me. “April, Come She Will… and August die she must;” a wondrous expression of the ephemeral. “A Poem on the Underground Wall,” shrieks of the murky and mysterious and offers no resolution save the four-letter word. “Old Friends...how terribly strange to be seventy;” indeed. I now know. I believe that “7 O’clock News/Silent Night” is the best protest song to come out of the Viet Nam war nightmare. I wish someone would write about Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, and so on and on with such poignancy.
I could ramble on, but I don’t wish to. Point made? I would only suggest that the reader, if he’s still with me, go and listen to these songs of the marvelous sixties. Listen hard and you may hear the sound of silence.
I end with another personal experience. At the close of that horrific year in which I shared my wife’s inexorable defeat by metastatic malignancy, I stood by her body in our home and sang “Kathy’s Song” to her:
“And so you see I have come to doubt
All that I once held as true;
I stand alone without beliefs,
The only truth I know is you.”
It dumbfounds me that the recollection still hurts so much. Is there any truth? I weep. I weep, but thank you Simon and Garfunkel.