I’m not a fan of country music, generally. I usually listen to the Big Mo (AKA John Heim) blues show on KCCK 88.3 on Friday nights. I also listen to the Music Choice channel on TV, either Easy Listening or Light Classical.
However, a few nights ago I heard the song “Grandpa, Tell Me ‘bout the Good Old Days” on Easy Listening. It was a haunting instrumental that I can be a sucker for sometimes. I noticed the rhythms that alerted me to its country genre, though.
On the other hand, the melody had that quality which makes me want hear nothing else for a while. An artist named Danielle Nicole sang “Bobby” on a Friday night blues in the second week of February, which did that for me.
How I feel about this kind of music reminds me of the Greek myth of Odysseus, who on his long journey back to Ithaca following the Trojan war, he and his crew of sailors encountered the island of the Sirens. Their voices made anyone who heard them forget everything but their haunting voices. The sailors wasted away, leaving hills of their skeletons. The only way to pass the Sirens safely was to stop the ears of the crew with wax. But Odysseus wanted to hear the song and made his men lash him to the mast so that he could not join those who gave up their lives to hear the music. He ached for knowledge in the lyrics even more than the melody of the songs the Sirens sang, and for the deepening of the spirit which absorbed the souls of those who heard the hypnotizing cadences. Just hearing the melody could extinguish the will to live.
The good old days melody didn’t extinguish my will to live, of course. But it was easy to get caught up in it and I noticed how deeply I reminisced. I looked up the lyrics and, at first, thought they were just quaint. Then they began to sound ironic to me.
The song (and I mean mainly the melody although the irony of the lyrics was part of the spell) seemed to raise the image of a bubble, which I know sounds strange. I remember blowing soap bubbles when I was a kid. They are delicate, bright, beautiful, but fragile—just like those so-called memories of what some older people call the good old days. You don’t even want to breathe too hard on them, which would hurt the spell, the illusion that there are such things as shiny, clear, light as air memories of a past without sorrows that float forever.
Of course, the bubbles burst as I got older. Innocence doesn’t last long in the world. It seems like every generation has to learn this all over again. The joys are replaced by broken promises, sorrows, and regrets.
Eventually, a golden haze settles over the anger, shame and guilt, softening the broken edges of the world which cut our souls. And the golden stories of the good old days that never happened save us for a little while every now and then—as long as there are those willing to sing them. Because we can almost always find the bubbles when we need them. Be careful not to listen to the Sirens too long. And if you do, be careful not to breathe too hard on the beautiful and fragile bubbles.
How much better would it be if we make the good times happen here and now?
Featured image picture credit: Pixydotorg.