music

Exit 248. A Shakespearean sonnet made entirely of 20th and 21st century song lyrics.

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes,
You know I wish that I had Jessie’s girl;
There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb,
Ain’t no companion like a blue eyed merle.
I’ve seen a little, but it ain’t enough,
We’d take a limousine ‘cause it costs more;
A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of,
And I can see the perfect sky is torn.
You got me ticking, going to blow my top,
I’ve got a pocket full of Kryptonite;
Pulsating to the back beat, Blitzkrieg Bop,
Yeah, I don’t wanna lose your love tonight.
Nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three,
That’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee.

Author’s note: Years ago, I noticed for some odd reason (this is how my brain works sometimes) that “You know I wish that I had Jessie’s girl” was iambic pentameter.  I heard Jessie’s Girl last week and started thinking about other song lyrics that could be considered iambic pentameter, which gave me the idea for this project.  So I listened to a lot of music on shuffle and thought of a lot of well known songs, and this is what I came up with.

Some of the rhymes aren’t perfect, I know.  It should also be noted that I found a lot of lyrics which, sadly, are missing the first unstressed syllable, like “everybody wants to rule the world” or “hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you,” so they don’t appear in this project even though those are among the best songs ever.  I also had a lot of unused lines that didn’t rhyme or didn’t fit very well, so if I keep listening for lyrics that might fit this pattern, I might write another one of these someday.

And if you don’t recognize the songs, every line is clickable.  Most of them are very well known, although from a wide variety of genres and eras, but a couple of them are more obscure.

Exit 233. Living for the first time.

A few of you, specifically people who have known me long enough to know all of my obscure little-known favorite movies, and probably not many others, will recognize the title of this post as a line from a song in the 2008 movie The Rocker.

Sometimes, I’ll read a book, or watch a movie, or interact with a work of fiction in some way, and I’ll feel like I want to know more.  I’ll want to know what happened to the characters after the end of the story, or more about the background of the characters or story. Or I’ll just wonder more about a certain minor character in the story, which specifically happened to me recently while watching this movie.

Critics didn’t really like this movie, but then again critics aren’t me.  The film stars Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office, the shirtless guy in the picture above, but I never got into that show so don’t ask me about Dwight), singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger (left), some people who became famous later (Josh Gad, Emma Stone, the other two pictured) and other people who were in other better-known stuff (Will Arnett, Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, Christina Applegate, Jane Lynch, Jeff Garlin, Bradley Cooper, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others).  Ex-hair band drummer Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson) never got his life together after his friends (Arnett, Armisen, Cooper) betrayed him and kicked them out of their band in 1986. His friends went on to become immensely successful, but the present day finds Fish living in the attic of his sister (Lynch)’s house and struggling to keep a job. Matt, Fish’s 18-year-old nephew (Gad) is in a band with his school friends Curtis and Amelia (Geiger, Stone), and they need a drummer.  After Fish struggles to fit in with the much younger band, the band gets a big break and attracts the attention of a typical Hollywood-weird producer (Sudeikis). Fish gets another chance to live the wild rock star life he dreamed of as a young man, but not quite in the way he imagined. I really enjoyed the story, even if it is a little unrealistic, and the soundtrack is an album that is still in my regular music rotation a decade later.

So about a week ago, this movie came up in a random Facebook conversation with a friend who hadn’t seen it, and I told my friend that it had been a while since I had seen it too, and now I wanted to watch it when I got home from work, which I did.  (In fact, I can remember exactly when I watched it last before last week; it was November 1, 2015, because it was my last date with SN1604 before we broke up the second and final time. She had never seen it, so I showed it to her. But we don’t need to talk about that…)  

Watching it again got me thinking about a certain minor character in the movie.  About halfway through the movie, the band is playing their first gig, and Fish is checking off all of their firsts as a band: first venue, first marquee sign (which has the band’s name misspelled), first sound check, first technical difficulties.  While they are playing, the camera switches to the crowd, where initially unenthusiastic people sitting at tables start paying attention to the music. One girl in particular starts watching the band, nodding her head enthusiastically to the music, and after the show she runs up to the band, blushing, and says “You guys are sweet!” before awkwardly running away.  Fish points out that they have their first fan. The same girl appears in the crowd at several future shows wearing a shirt that says “I ♥ MATT.” At an after-party, Matt tells Amelia that he wants to talk to this girl but doesn’t know how to talk to girls; Amelia gives him some pointers, and Matt goes over to talk to her. At the last concert in the movie, Matt throws his hat into the crowd, and she catches it (again wearing the I ♥ MATT shirt)..

This girl is a minor character in the movie.  No one says her name in the movie, and in the credits, she is listed as “I ♥ Matt Girl.”  But there is an interesting subplot here. In one scene, during the filming of a music video, Amelia gets frustrated at the people making the video wanting to change her look.  She says something along the lines of if they want someone who looks like all the other girls out there, they should just grab one of the girls that are always hanging around Curtis after the show.  But this girl, their first fan, isn’t one of the girls hanging around Curtis. She ♥s Matt, the dorky awkward member of the band. Even the dorkiest and most awkward of us have someone out there who cares about us.

So will I ever have a girl following me around with a shirt proclaiming that she ♥s me?  Doubtful.  Will I ever have someone who feels that way about me, though? I might, I might not. But who knows, it could happen. And it isn’t irrelevant that I have a lot of good friends who care about me.

Exit 232. Pray that God will sort everything out.

I’m not as much into Christian music as I used to be, but I still play Christian radio on Sunday mornings on the way to church, to get myself in the right frame of mind.  This song from 2012 comes on sometimes.  Casting Crowns was never a band I really got into.  I was at a Christian music festival in 2004, and I heard someone from this band telling a story between songs about when he was a kid, and he said that algebra class was of Satan, so I decided at that moment that I didn’t like them.  But this song is really powerful.

And, to be honest, this is something big that I have always struggled with.  Even though I always knew that this wasn’t the point of Christianity, part of the attraction of Christianity for me when I started taking my faith seriously in my late teens was that these were people who also didn’t get drunk or do drugs or sleep around.  And that kind of mentality makes it really easy to be judgmental toward those who don’t have lifestyles like mine.

But that isn’t going to help the rest of the world know Jesus.  Telling people that they’re wrong and that they’re going to hell is not a way to recruit people to your cause.

It’s a difficult balance to strike.  Sin is real and should not be taken lightly.  But love is also real, and all of us are sinners and need to be treating each other with love.  And, of course, these days, with society so polarized, there are debates over what is and is not sin in the first place.

Like I said, it’s easy to be judgmental.  It’s a very real desire to want to be part of a group where I can feel like I’m living life the right way and not like the other people.  But all of that is so different from everything that Jesus promised.  That sounds more like the words of the religious leaders that Jesus condemned so harshly (Luke 18:9ff).

So how do I handle this?  When do I call out someone’s sin?  I don’t know, and there probably isn’t a universal answer.  All I can do is pray for wisdom and discernment, to know what to say to whom when.  And more importantly, I can just love everyone and pray that God will sort everything out, that God will speak to all of us about where we still fall short and how we can grow closer to Him.

 

Exit 229. I knew the answer all along.

I was watching Jeopardy! a few days ago.  Jeopardy! and other trivia games have always been huge in my family.  I’ve told people that my hours of reading random stuff on Wikipedia, then clicking a link to something else I read that I’m curious about, and repeating that dozens of times, are just studying for being a contestant on Jeopardy! eventually.  This argument was justified a few weeks ago when something I had read following a Wikipedia rabbit trail actually showed up a day or two later as a Final Jeopardy! question.  (“In 1790 Thursday October Christian became the first child whose birth was recorded on this remote island” — I had read about said remote island on another Wikipedia distraction-fest a few years ago, so I might have still gotten it right had I not read about it again recently.  I’ll let you think about it; click here for the correct response.  It’s also tradition in my family not to give away the answer in trivia games to non-participants who might be watching and playing along.)

Anyway, that isn’t the point of this post.  Another recent Final Jeopardy! category was “Female Singers,” and the clue was “In the 1990s this New York native had 8 of her first 10 Billboard Top 40 hits reach No. 1.”  I’m sitting there trying to think of the answer, and the first thing that comes to mind is, Crap!  In the 1990s I wasn’t listening to female singers who had No. 1 hits.  I was listening to R.E.M. and Pearl Jam and Aerosmith and Toad The Wet Sprocket, and then I had my Pink Floyd phase, and then I became a Christian and listened to DC Talk and Jars of Clay and Third Day.  I might not know this one.  Who could it be… whoever it is, her music probably sucks.

I was staring at the TV, at the words “1990s” and “No. 1 hits,” and I thought of something else.  A meme, of all things, something that I saw months ago.  It said to post the song that was No. 1 on your 14th birthday, and that is the song that defines your life.  Mine was “Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey.  That’s pretty much the opposite of what defines my life.  I’ve had plenty of visions of love, but unlike the song, they never come true, at least not for long.

But, back to Jeopardy!… my 14th birthday was in the summer of 1990.  Vision of Love was a No. 1 song from the 1990s by a female singer.  And it was from the start of her career, and she did have a lot of big hits in the next few years after that.  Could Mariah Carey be the correct Jeopardy! response?  I didn’t know whether or not she was a New York native, and I didn’t know exactly how many No. 1 hits she had or anything like that.  But I didn’t have a better answer.

Mariah Carey was correct.  I had the answer all along.

Literally.  I’ve literally had the answer since I was 14.  Somewhere in my parents’ attic is a cassette tape of Mariah Carey’s first album, the one with Vision of Love on it.  I haven’t listened to it since I was 15 or 16, but there was a brief time when I didn’t think that Mariah Carey sucked.  She had a strong voice with a pretty impressive range, and there were some catchy songs on that album.  Mariah lost favor with me a few years later, when she released another album with a song with banal lyrics and lots of parts where she was just shrieking at a pitch that only dogs and dolphins can hear, and by that time I was pretty much ditching pop, R&B, and hip-hop altogether in favor of classic rock.

So when I heard Alex Trebek telling the two contestants who wrote Mariah Carey that they were correct, I felt pretty proud of myself.  I thought that this question was going to be completely out of the realm of things I know about, but I knew the answer all along.  Maybe this is the case more often than I know.

Exit 225. Until it ends, there is no end.

I’m back from my hiatus.  Well, I don’t know if hiatus is the right word, considering I started a second blog during that time.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to share it yet… we’ll see.

Instead of something deep and earth-shattering, this is going to be one of those posts about a song from my past.  I rediscovered this one a couple years ago, but it just hit me recently why I like it so much.

We had this album on vinyl back when it was new (1984).  I remember my mom really liking it.  Wikipedia says that six singles were released from the album, but I really only remember four.  The first two (one, two) are very well remembered and today are considered classics of 1980s pop.  A third one I mostly remember just because I found out many years later, as an adult, that it was about masturbation.  I found this hilarious because my mother, who came from the kind of background where sex was never talked about, and who also has a tendency not to pay attention to lyrics, loved the song.  I don’t know what she thought it was about… dancing, probably.  I had no idea what it was about either, but I had an excuse because I was eight years old and knew nothing of female anatomy.  Mom, I know you read this, and I hope you don’t think I’m making fun of you or anything, but all I just did was state facts, and I believe we had this discussion years ago.

Anyway… back to All Through The Night.  This one isn’t about masturbation.  It’s a nice little song about the excitement of new love.  And unlike many pop songs about love, this is one I can relate to better than most.

Being performed by a woman doesn’t make this song harder to relate to as a man.  The lyrics work for any combination of genders and sexual orientations, and in fact the song was written and originally recorded by a man, even though Cyndi Lauper’s version is much more well known. The reason I feel like I can relate to this song more so than most pop songs about love is because I’ve been there.

As I’ve written before, I haven’t exactly had a good history with romantic relationships.  I haven’t had many of them at all, and most of the ones I’ve had were bad, leaving me with the feeling that I have experienced all of the heartache surrounding relationships but little to none of the good experiences.  But the excitement of new love… that is something I have felt.  Every relationship starts that way, full of hope and excitement and anticipation.  It’s a great feeling.

Of course, I haven’t felt that excitement and anticipation all that often over the course of my life, and most of the time it just sets up a new horrible way to be lied to, ignored, or accused of something.  But that’s life.  And going through all that crap just makes the excitement and anticipation and hope even better when it has happened.

Exit 211. I see them running too.

I discovered classic rock in the early 1990s, my high school years.  As my teens wore on, I realized that I was enjoying less and less the R&B and rap that the remaining radio station of my childhood played.  By the middle of my high school years, the stations that played what I considered good music of that time period were gone.  MTV still played music in the mornings, and they had the show where they played the most requested videos of the day that came on in the early evening.  I watched a lot of that, especially during school breaks when I was home in the morning.  But when I was listening to the radio while in my room doing homework, or in the car once I started driving, I wasn’t finding anything I liked among the numerous R&B, rap, country, and Spanish-language stations that Monterey County was in range of at the time.  There were a couple of classic rock stations, playing rock music from a time period that spanned from the mid-1960s (my parents’ teen years) to the mid-1980s (my childhood).  Most of these songs were before my time, and I didn’t remember them.  Some of them were by artists I had never heard of.  But I came to discover that I enjoyed it.  Good music.

Some of these songs remained background music to me for decades, coming up every once in a while while flipping around the radio, without me actually paying close attention to the lyrics.  And sometimes, I will actually listen closely to the lyrics of a song like this for the first time, and I’ll have a sudden realization and find some meaning in the song that I had never found before.

Like this one.

Running On Empty was first released in 1977.  I don’t remember 1977.  I wasn’t old enough to eat solid food or wipe my own butt in 1977.  I probably was in high school listening to classic rock radio in the car when I first heard this song.  Or possibly it might have been while watching Forrest Gump, during the montage in which Forrest is running across the country; that movie was released a few months after I graduated from high school.  But I think I already knew of the song’s existence by then.

And I did have some idea what the song was about.  Life on the road.  Constantly moving from one place to another with no clear destination.  And that is a feeling I know well.  Sometimes I don’t know where my life is going.  Sometimes I feel like my direction and goals are unclear.  And I literally spent four months on the road in 2005 trying to find myself, not knowing the specifics of where I was going more than a week or so in advance at the most.

But then, a couple years ago, the song came on, and one part of the lyrics really stuck out to me, at the end of the third verse:

I look around for the friends that I used to turn to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too…

I see them running too.  Everyone around me has their own struggle to find their destination and meaning in life.  It’s not just me.  I’m not alone.

Knowing that doesn’t always help me find my answers or my destination.  But it still helps to know that my struggles are not unique, and that there are others running on the same road I am.

Exit 208. I want to love somebody like you. Wait, no I don’t.

I have a complicated history with this song.

I pretty much didn’t know that the song existed until 2005, three years after its initial release.  I mostly ignored country music until the four-month period when I was wandering around the USA trying to find myself.  One day, I was driving from San Antonio to Austin flipping around on the radio, I got to a country station, and I decided to leave it on for a bit, because, hey, I’m in Texas, may as well immerse myself in the culture… and I realized that country music wasn’t all that bad.  A few weeks later, I was staying with a friend in Alabama, and she was so excited that I had started listening to country music that she copied a bunch of country albums to my laptop, including the one that this song is part of.

I quoted a line from this song on my personal Facebook page once (specifically, the opening line, “There’s a new wind blowing like I’ve never known”).  I remember exactly when it was: Tuesday morning, August 3, 2010, during the time in my life I refer to as The Week That Everything Happened.  If you’re friends with my personal Facebook, you can go look that up; it’s there.  I remember exactly when it was, because I remember why I posted it.  It was the morning after my second date with Mimosa (as explained in #12).  From my naive perspective, it looked like new love was in the air, or at least on the way, and it was going to be a different experience from anything else in my past… which is basically what this song is about.  But it didn’t last; I found out a week later that she wasn’t interested in a relationship, and that all the kissing didn’t really mean anything to her.  This seems to be normal for most people these days, but having grown up sheltered and then among Josh Harris types, the idea that kissing doesn’t mean interest in a committed relationship was heartbreakingly new to me.  (We did end up on good terms years later, after some very complicated ups and downs, although we don’t really talk or message much these days because of natural causes.)

For a time in 2014 and 2015, I was running a Song of the Day page on Facebook.  Sometimes I would just post a random song that was on my mind, but sometimes the song would be something that had a deeper meaning to me.  I kept it in the back of my head to reserve Somebody Like You for a time when I had met someone special again.  SN1604 came along in May 2015; I’ve mentioned her a few times on this blog, but I don’t believe I’ve told the whole story.  We hit it off quickly, there were two dates and a lot of kissing, and then she decided that spark wasn’t there.  We stayed good friends for a few months, and during that time she told me that she had changed her mind and realized she liked me after all.  I didn’t act on that right away, though, because I still had questions in my mind, because I was comfortable just being good friends, and because this conversation happened right when I was starting the school year and had a lot of other things on my mind.  In October, we revisited those conversations and decided to give things another try.  And as I pulled away from dropping her off after the first date of our second stint, I turned on the radio… and Somebody Like You was playing.

I had already stopped doing my Song of the Day page by then, so I never posted Somebody Like You as the Song of the Day.  But hearing it at that moment felt like a sign, a sign that new love was on the horizon.  And just like when I quoted the song during The Week That Everything Happened, new love was not actually on the horizon at all.

In the next five weeks, SN1604 and I had one more date.  We also had five times when she either had to cancel on me or attempt to reschedule, and one time when she flat out stood me up, supposedly because she fell asleep.  The five times were all legitimate excuses, though, either related to work, family, or health, so this left me confused as to whether or not she actually wanted to be with me.  In a tearful phone conversation on November 10, 2015, she said that with all of the work, family, and health things, she just had too much going on to be in a relationship with anyone right now, and she cared too much about me to see me keep getting hurt.  That would have just ended there with a bit of sadness, and possibly staying on good terms, except that a month later she was with someone else.  Not exactly the actions of someone who just has too much going on to be in a relationship with anyone.

Last month (June 2018), I met someone.  It was great at first, but it became increasingly evident that she and I have very different ideas of how relationships should develop and grow, and very different concepts of “taking things slow.”  A few days ago, during a Facebook conversation attempting to make plans for later in the week, she ambushed me with a serious long term future type question that I just don’t feel qualified to answer about someone whom I’ve only known for 25 days.  I could have told her what she wanted to hear, but I panicked and gave an honest answer instead.  She said that I was wasting her time if I couldn’t answer that, and proceeded to make some really insulting, patronizing, and slightly disturbing remarks which I won’t go into detail about here.  The next morning, I tried to call her and explain my side a bit more calmly; she didn’t answer, I left a voice mail, and as I posting this, a little over four days later, I still have not heard anything from her.

After I made the phone call that she didn’t answer, I needed to eat my feelings, so I wandered down to a place in the neighborhood that has a lunch special on weekdays: all you can eat pizza, salad, breadsticks, and inferior but acceptable soft drinks for comparatively cheap.  I walk in… and Somebody Like You is playing.

Really?  Now?

I got so distracted thinking about my history with that song that I got tongue-tied trying to place my order (even though all I had to say was Lunch Buffet).  This was probably just a coincidence, but the song is 16 years old, not something that is going to be all over the radio at any given time.  The lyrics of the song are about new love, but in my life the song has been more about romantic encounters that went bad quickly.  It makes me wonder if this is a coincidence or God trying to tell me something, since I’ve felt in the past that songs I’ve heard at noteworthy times might have been messages from God.  My mom would probably say that it’s only natural for a Keith Urban song to be associated with bad dating experiences because Keith Urban looks like a child molester.  For that matter, what kind of name for a country singer is Keith Urban?  He should be named Keith Rural.  But I’m getting sidetracked.

About half an hour later, as I was reaching my stomach capacity for eating my feelings, this song came on.

The message here is a bit more obvious and unambiguous.  Time to stop drowning in sorrows.  This woman who can’t accept the fact that I can’t make long term decisions about someone I’ve only known for 25 days, she ain’t worth the whiskey.  Or in this case, she’s not worth the pizza.

I am currently conflicted between trying to contact her again and work this out or just letting her go and admitting to myself that she and I have very different views of how relationships work.  So far, my actions (or lack thereof) have been consistent with the second option, and the songs I heard in the pizza place seem to be pointing in that direction too.  But we’ll see.

Exit 199. Oh yes, we’ll keep on trying.

I have a lot of thoughts swimming around in my brain right now, and I’m not sure how much of it I’m ready to share at this point.  So instead, this week I’ll skip all that and write about one of my other recurring themes on this site: rediscovering a great song from an earlier time in my life.  This time the song is “Innuendo” by Queen.

Queen was a British band active from the early 1970s to the early 1990s.  I did not grow up listening to Queen.  I was vaguely aware that there was a band called Queen, and my earliest memories of hearing music on the radio as a preschooler include a song called Another One Bites The Dust, but I don’t think I connected the name Queen to that song until I started actually listening to Queen in my mid-teens.  Much of Queen’s later work was far more popular in Europe than in the USA, for a variety of reasons, so they were absent from the music that was around me in elementary school and my early teens.

Queen experienced a resurgence of popularity in the USA in the winter of 1991-92, for two reasons: lead singer Freddie Mercury’s death, and the release of the movie Wayne’s World, which featured a scene where the main characters drive around singing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  I was watching MTV a lot at the time, I was 15, and the channel often aired both tributes to the recently deceased Freddie Mercury and a remixed music video of Bohemian Rhapsody, combining scenes from Wayne’s World with scenes from the original 1975 music video.  Queen was one of the first bands I got into whose heyday was before my time.

Despite this, however, my knowledge of Queen does not extend deep into their catalog, beyond their two greatest hits albums and the 2005 live CD from the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour.  (In this century, after Freddie Mercury’s death, two of the original members of Queen, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, have done tours performing Queen songs with other lead singers, but they have billed themselves as “Queen + [whoever is on vocals]” rather than just Queen.)  Innuendo, the song I posted above, was on the album of the same name, the last released in Mercury’s lifetime, but not on the US version of either of the two greatest hits albums.  Until a few weeks ago, I had heard the song exactly once.  I was in the car at some point in late high school; by that time I knew enough Queen music to recognize Freddie’s voice, but this was not a song I had heard before.  A few weeks ago, I was looking up something about Queen on Wikipedia (who knows why, it’s me and it’s Wikipedia, that’s enough of a reason), and I came upon a mention of the song Innuendo, and I thought, that’s that song I remember hearing once, the one that goes “yeah, we’ll keep on fighting.”  I should go listen to it, because it’s 2018 and you can find stuff like that on the Internet.  So I did.  (And I was wrong; the song contains the lines “we’ll keep on trying,” and “we’ll keep on smiling,” but no “we’ll keep on fighting.”  It is definitely the song I was thinking of, though.)

Freddie Mercury died of AIDS-related complications less than a year after this song was released.  Rumors had long circulated about Freddie having been in sexual relationships with men, and when some noticed his health declining, rumors had circulated about his having contracted AIDS.  But Freddie never said anything public about either of these topics until days before his death.  By the time Innuendo was recorded, the band knew that Freddie was dying.

And this is a really deep song, full of great quotes that can be interpreted as wisdom from one nearing the end of his life to pass on to the next generation, the kind of wisdom I need to hear these days.

While [all this variety of bad stuff happens in the world]… oh yes, we’ll keep on trying.

You can be anything you want to be.

Be free.

And whatever will be will be, till the end of time.

Thank you, Internet, for helping me unpack this song that’s been stuck in a corner of my brain for the last quarter-century.

Exit 190. I’ll find you when I think I’m out of time.

One interesting thing about having a huge collection of music is that every once in a while, I’ll have all of my thousands of songs on shuffle, and I’ll rediscover a song from my past in a way that speaks to me all over again in the present.

Jars of Clay is a Christian rock band that was popular during my college and young adult years, when I was first discovering Christian rock (and first discovering what it meant to be a Christian, for that matter).  Their song Flood, off of their self-titled debut album, was a major hit in 1996, crossing over from the Christian niche into mainstream music and charting on the Billboard Hot 100.   I’ve seen them live at least three times, most recently in 2006 with Vega the Nice Ex.  (Some of the popular Christian bands of that era I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen live, since I went to some festivals and other large events where many bands were playing.  I know I’ve seen them at least once at a festival, and twice as the actual headliners of actual concerts.)

Jars of Clay never really replicated that early mainstream success.  They experimented with different sounds over the years, and although I have all of their first seven studio albums, their self-titled debut will probably always be my favorite.  But there are some good songs off of their other albums (as well as some recent work which I haven’t heard at all; maybe I’ll have to check them out one of these days).  The song “The Eleventh Hour,” from the 2002 album of the same title, came up on shuffle recently, and I hadn’t heard it in a while, and it had probably been even longer since I had actually paid attention to the lyrics.

 

The English phrase “the eleventh hour,” which like the phrase “jars of clay” is derived from a passage in the New Testament,  refers to the last minute, a time in which it is almost too late.  (Some modern translations use modern methods of timekeeping in that passage instead of the words “eleventh hour”; the NIV, for example, says “five in the afternoon.”)

The song says:

Rescue me from waiting on this line.
I won’t give up on giving you the chance to blow my mind.
Let the eleventh hour quickly pass me by.
I’ll find you when I think I’m out of time.

Sometimes I feel like I’m out of time.  Sometimes I feel like my best years are past me, having been wasted drowning in fear and self-doubt.  Sometimes I feel like I could have been happy and had a more fulfilling life if I had done things differently in my younger years.  Sometimes it feels too late to be successful financially, or too late to meet that special someone and find a family, or too late to find a place where I belong.  God, rescue me.  I won’t give up on you.  I can still find God, and he can still do wonderful things with my life, even if I think I’m out of time.

As I’ve been writing this, two other Jars of Clay songs came up on shuffle.  Maybe God is telling me he approves of my topic for this week, or that one of my readers needed to hear this.

Don’t give up on God.

Exit 189. Even though I haven’t talked to her in a decade, what she said stuck with me.

I had a rough day at work on Thursday.  Many of the students are at a point where they just don’t care.  They don’t yet have the maturity to understand that they need to do some work in order to be successful in school or in life.  So, as a consequence of that, they are completely lost in class, and they can’t tell me the main idea of what we’ve been learning all week even though they literally should have been writing it in their notebook at least once a day and using it on their homework.  (You know, the homework they didn’t do.)

I was sitting in my classroom, looking at the music on my phone, trying to figure out what to listen to while I graded papers during my prep period.  My prep is the second to last period of the day, so I had one more class to go after that.   I came across a playlist with a noteworthy title: “Listening To A Hug.”

I made this playlist, but I didn’t coin this title.  Someone who I used to know from Carbon Leaf‘s online fandom did.  In 2004, when Carbon Leaf was first touring nationwide and I was very active in their online fan community, they recorded and released a song called “Let Your Troubles Roll By.”  The song has regularly been on their live set lists ever since, usually played toward the end of the show.  Another regular on their fan message boards, we’ll call her “Naos,” wrote something about how she loved this song.  “It’s like listening to a hug,” she said.

For a few years in the middle of the last decade, I made a lot of friends through Carbon Leaf’s online fan sites, and I met some of those people in person during my 2005 travels.  Some of them I am still friends with today.  Naos, however, is not one of them.  One time I was bored online as I often am, I messaged Naos on AIM to say hi, and she replied something like, “Don’t you ever have anything better to do than message people online?”  We never spoke again.  Thanks for showing me your true colors.

But, even though I haven’t talked to her in a decade and have no desire to, what she said about listening to a hug stuck with me for many years.  Several years later, I was listening to Let Your Troubles Roll By, and I thought about this, and I thought about other songs that have felt that way to me.  So I made a playlist of such songs, and I called it “Listening To A Hug.”  I hadn’t listened to it all the way through in a long time, but I rediscovered it a few days ago when I was having a rough day at work, as I described above.  And I listened to it, at least as much as I could until the period was over and the students came back.  And I was much more calm for the last class of the day.

Some of the songs on my Listening To A Hug playlist are well-known classics by some of the greatest artists in the history of music.  But some are by lesser-known artists.  Some are down-album tracks by well-known artists.  Some were big hits for a brief time that have mostly been forgotten.  (Interesting side note: I was curious exactly when I first put this playlist together, because a few of the songs were by artists well known at the time I made the playlist but haven’t really followed since then.  The original file on my computer says it was created February 18, 2013.  Exactly five years ago today.  Weird.)  Also, normally when I make playlists like this, I try not to use the same artist too many times, and with a playlist of this length I would normally not use the same artist more than once.  I kind of violated that with two songs with Michael Jackson on vocals, but one of them was from early in his career with the Jackson 5, and the other was the last song he completed in his lifetime, so they really don’t sound all that similar at all.

I should also point out that I left Christian music off of this playlist.  I was really into Christian music from the mid-90s until the mid-2000s, and I still listen to Christian music occasionally.  But I already had a lot of comforting playlists with Christian music.  I wanted to try to do one with secular music just to see what it would turn out like.

Here’s my playlist.  I know I have a very eclectic taste in music, I don’t expect all of you to like all of my songs, but maybe you’ll find something here that is like listening to a hug for you too.  (I tried to use legal official videos and songs wherever possible.  If any of the links don’t work someday, let me know.)