Can A Song Save Your Life?

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The Thursday after the 4th, they shot scenes for the movie, Can A Song Save Your Life? in my neighborhood. I haven’t been able to find out much about the film online but according to the Bowery Boogie:

The film focuses on an aspiring singer-songwriter (Knightley) who moves to the city with fellow musician and boyfriend (Levine). Their breakup shortly thereafter sets the stage. Mark Ruffalo and Hailee Steinfeld co-star; John Carney (Once) and Judd Apatow were both tapped for the project in director and executive producer roles respectively. Ruffalo was last seen in these parts a few months ago while filming SWAT scenes for Now You See Me on Orchard Street.

Eurweb called it a “musical film” and said that Cee Lo would be in it.

Regardless of what the movie ends up being — straight narrative or musical, modern classic or straight-to-DVD release — it asks an interesting question: Can a song save your life?

The American Music Therapy Association has a good introductory set of news segments about the emotional and physical healing capacity of music (including a PBS Newshour clip about how music helped Gabrielle Giffords recover from her shooting in Arizona).

Watch The Healing Power of Music on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Personally, music has played — and continues to play — a very large and very important role in my life — And it’s not just because I am prone to Ohrwurms (My latest being Neon Trees’ Everybody Talks).

I have songs that help to quash unwanted feelings of insecurity and sadness — and songs that revel in it — songs that make me feel cocky and cool, and songs that help me forget the pains and the dead-end drudgery of living 9 to 5.

Morrissey and The Smiths are my “go to band” for when I’m feeling sad and want to stay there a while. It’s kind of like when an athlete injures himself and the coach tells him to “walk it off”.

I have particularly fond memories of “I know It’s Over”. It was one of the songs they played at one of the first concerts I ever went to. It was in high school. My friends and I took the train into Manhattan’s Westside by the river (which was nothing like it is now). But that wasn’t what makes it memorable. What makes it memorable was standing on these flimsy metal folding chairs along with everybody else and watching my friends (guys and girls alike) crying madly as Morrissey wailed out “Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head.”

The Clash’s cover of the Bobby Fuller Four song, “I Fought the Law” is what I play when I need to feel cocky (which in my head is just a little bit more than just confident).

The song is on The Clash. It is the first punk rock album I ever bought. It was in the 80s at a Record Explosion near the bus depot, across the street from the Merrick Boulevard public library in Jamaica. It came with a bonus 45 for “Gates of the West”. Rap music was new then and the area music stores were switching their stock (though it didn’t occur to me at the time). I found the album in the bargain bin. It was $2 and the first record in the bin.

Googling around, I found a link to UOVO’s Ten Songs that Saved Your Life project on self-described “Street Architect. Ghettographer. Wanna-be philosopher that totally diggs the writings of the late Jean Baudrillard and Karl Marx” Smizz’s blog. The UOVO project asked artists, musicians, writers, designers to create a playlist of the ten “songs that saved their lives”.

Smizz annotates her list of “life savers” with her age at the time she heard the song, which I found interesting because it acknowledges that the stuff that drives us to the brink of needing our lives saved changes with age. The dramas of a 16 year old and the tribulations of a 46 year old are different.

I also found What Scene?, a blog by Jimmy Bones of Crooked Halo Productions, where he posted about five songs that “saved his life”. It’s part of a “five songs” series on his blog, where he describes five songs that had a particular impact on his life. For example, he has a list of five songs that “Depress the Hell” out of him and five songs that “piss him off”.

There are songs that depress the Hell out of me but I don’t know that there are any songs out there that really piss me off. It’s the same with life savers.

I’ve been there. I’ve felt so beaten that I could see myself just letting everything go. But I cannot say with any confidence that there was a piece of music that kept my vision from materializing. It’s usually been a series of serendipitous events (which might very well have included a song) that kept me grounded.

David Bowie’s “Rock and Roll Suicide” in the context of the Ziggy Stardust movie is one of the songs that really “touched” me as I felt myself unraveling in high school. I was 14 or 15. PBS (channel Thirteen) played the movie as a part of a fundraiser drive.

In the months following 9/11, it was “Wicked Little Town” from the film Hedwig and the Angry Inch that helped keep my faith in people (and myself). I’m going to credit IFC with broadcasting the film.



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