DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

Sarah McLachlan

Dec 17 2012

Playlist Against Darkness

by Jnai W

As one may have gathered from any number of my blog posts on DCPLive, music is food for my soul, more than anything else. If I’m honest with myself music ministers more to me than an encouraging word, a psalm or even a hug from a loved one. I’m not exactly sure why that is.  Maybe listening to a song that someone else wrote is a filter through which I can pour my own emotions and connect to the world around me, if that makes sense. Wow, Sarah McLachlan must have been feeling how I’m feeling now when she wrote “Witness”. Maybe I’m not alone here.

I’ve got a list of songs that I come back to from time to time when I need comfort or space–away from the 24-hour news cycle, away from water cooler debates or living room repasts–to sort through my whirling emotions.  I’ve got a list of songs that carry me through dark times and speak to my heart in one way or another.  This list of songs is exhaustive so I’ve narrowed down to 3 of the top songs on my Playlist Against Darkness:

“Beware of Darkness” by George Harrison:  There is no shortage of brilliant and  timeless songs on the Quiet Beatles 1970 album All Things Must Pass.”My Sweet Lord”, a plaintive but hopeful cry for enlightenment from On High, was undeniably my favorite song on the album…until I heard “Beware of Darkness”. The lyrics warn of the pitfalls of bitterness, negativity and sadness (“it can hit you/ it can hurt you) . What I like about this song is that the lyrics which could have easily been admonishing and perhaps even trite, in the hands of a less-skilled writer and musician, are affirming and uplifting here. Sadness, when nursed and dwelt upon, can “make you sore/ and what is more/ that is not what you are here for”.

“All is Full of Love” by Bjork:  I’m a huge fan of the Icelandic idiosyncrasy named Bjork Gudmundsdottir. Her lyrics are honest, earnest and often sound as though they’ve been directly translated to English from her native tongue, adding a slight bit of quirkiness. Her voice is crystalline and magnificent. She wears swan-shaped dresses to the self-satisfied Academy Awards.  She’s also written this simple, elegant and brilliant song about opening one’s heart to love and light. “All is Full of Love” assures its listener that “you’ll be given love/ you’ll be taken care of/… you just have to trust it”.  Perhaps, dear Listener, you’ve shut the door or taken the phone off the hook too soon but love is out there and it’s everywhere. It’s a heartening message coming from a delightful source. If you’re not familiar with her work, treat yourself and check out her music from the Library.

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” as sung by Nina Simone: I’ve written at length in previous blog posts about my devotion to Nina Simone. There are a few works of hers that would fit nicely into any Playlist Against Darkness such as “Feelin’ Good”, “My Baby Just Cares For Me” and “To Be Young Gifted and Black”. But I happen to love Nina Simone’s version of this song, written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas. The lyrics are strong, challenging yet optimistic on their own but when combined with Simone’s passionate vocals and gospel piano, this song becomes an anthem for civil rights and for love in general. “I wish you could know/ how it feels to be me/ then you’d see and agree/ that every man should be free” appeals to its listener’s empathy and humanity, encouraging each and everyone to become a champion for equality and peace. It’s as timely a message now as it was during the era in which it was born.

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