COMMIT TO A WRITING PRACTICE
3 SONGS OF INFLUENCE
It has taken me forever to do this assignment. Partially because I am avoiding it and partially because I am having difficulty picking the three. For some reason this assignment has me running a little scared, a little too close to me for me. It is a simple request. I’m not sure, but regardless of my hesitation I am committing to my writing practice and will push forward to complete the assignment.
As the Police sing “I was born in the 50’s”, grew up in the 70’s, attained my independence in the 80”s. The 70’s was a time after the drug craze and sexual revolution of the 60’s, when the ideals of the Hippies, the Feminists and Beat Generation began to filter into the minds of young women. Middle class women began to question their role in life, wanting more, more freedom, more independence, more equality and much more of everything.
I did not pick The Three Most Influential songs of my life. I couldn’t decide what they were. I did however, select three song which I still love to hear, continue to make me think and teach me of the big old world out there.
I am listing these in chronological order, not necessarily in the order I discovered them.
The House of the Rising Sun – The Animals – 1964
A widely discussed folk song. Some say The House of the Rising Sun is an Americanized version of an 18th Century English ballad. The first known American recording is dated at 1934 by Clarence “Tom” Ashley and Gwen Foster. It has since then been performed throughout the years by many artists, notably, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, and most famously The Animals.
I was drawn to the sadness, the struggle and the failure of this cautionary tale. His mother a tailor, a strong hard working woman, raised him on her own. Yet, she loses both her husband and her son to the mysterious House of The Rising Sun. In despair, he begs mothers of the world to warn their children not to follow in the footsteps of his father and himself, gamblers and addicts. We know he struggles, yet he gets back on the train to New Orleans.
I was curious about The House of the Rising Sun it was so very mysterious and somewhat romantic to me. I imagined it as part of the hippie scene similar to Haight Ashbury, filled with stained glass windows, velvet curtains and wisps of smoke. I was a young romantic and naïve at the time.
It was also the very first “modern song” I learned on the guitar.
Musically, I was intrigued by the organs scream, the smooth pluck of the guitar, theTap tapity tap of the cymbals & drums and overriding it all, Eric’s voice of despair
Lou Reed Walk on the Wild Side 1972 – Transformer
The subjects and the raw honesty of Walk on the Wild Side were my introduction to the wild side of life. Having spent most of my first 14 years moving around Canada every few years and once to Germany and back, I was curious to know what was the wild side? What did it mean he was a she? What was the hustle? I believe by the time I heard this song, the hustle was a dance.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side showcased Lou’s raw velvet voice, poetic language, juxtaposed against a smooth pop rhythm. It inspired in me a curiosity for the other side of life and a tolerance for alternative lifestyles. It offered me the opportunity to question what I had been taught was socially acceptable.
Pat Benatar, – I Need a Lover – written by Johnny Cougar – 1979 – In The Heat of the Night
In the Heat of The Night is an important album because it is the first album I purchased in which I solely relied on my own musical instincts. No one told me it was a good album or who Pat Benatar was. I heard the music on the alternative radio station, liked it and purchased the album on a weekend holiday. I was impressed with myself for having such a musical ear. Pat Pat on my back.
I Need a Lover, is a brave song for the time, and still has a message for young woman today. It is an empowering song for women, who were supposed to go from their father’s house into the house of their husband. Something, I did not want to experience. This is a strong modern woman who chooses her own lovers, even specifies the criteria, the relationship is on her terms and not permanent. The raw desire of a strongly independent modern woman empowered to behave as she deems fit. Up to that time, only a man was allowed to behave sexually independent, without impunity.
This song intrigued me for its independent spirit. I wasn’t surprised to find out it was written by a man. When I went to Sam’s on Yonge Street in Toronto looking for more music by the songwriter, no one at Sams knew who Johnny Cougar was. We now know him as John Mellenkamp.
Cheryle April 10, 2015 citation – Wikipedia