Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuneful Tuesdays: Where Are the Comfort Songs?

(To the right, the best photo I could find to illustrate comfort....)

So, today I was transferring some old cassette tapes to the computer (since who knows how much longer the cassette player will last) and came upon Willie Nelson singing Bridge Over Troubled Water.  That made me think of some other comforting songs and realize that most of them (if not all) were written in what I'd call "my day" -- the late 60s and early 70s.  (Well, OK. I just remembered one that was written 20 years ago, more about that later). Right now, I'm doing fine. But a lot of people aren't -- most recently victims of Hurricane Ike, for instance. We all need some comfort songs sometimes.

I wonder what are the comfort songs of today? Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Program put out a CD a few years ago called Comfort Keepers, which has some great songs on it, but for the most part they are what I'd call "buck up" songs, like The Mary Ellen Carter ( a great song, by the way).  I Will Survive and the Chumbawamba song I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again are a couple more examples.  But that's not what I'm talking about right now.

My criteria for a "comfort song" are that it should be comforting not only in words but in music, and should be usable as a lullabye if you're so inclined.  To show you what I mean, here are a few. I'm using links instead of embedding this time, for a specific reason:

Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel. I remember this song as coming out during my last semester in college, the semester of Kent State, Jackson State, daily casualty lists from Vietnam -- and of course, our own little worries about life after college. We really needed that song. At the Maine Veterans' Cemetery Chapel in Augusta, there's a carillon that plays before and after funeral services. People can donate money to have specific songs put on it. At my father's funeral, I remember hearing Bridge over Troubled Water. I imagine it was requested by someone who was burying a Vietnam veteran there.  It still comforts me.

You've Got a Friend by Carole King. I associate this song with a time when I was far from home, among mostly strangers, and King's album Tapestry came out. I like her own version best.

Sweet Baby James by James Taylor -- to make up for slighting his version of You've Got a Friend.  Another one from my college years, this one seems to say that sometimes you have to comfort yourself, even if it's by singing your own lullabye.

Lean on Me by Bill Withers.  This song came out in 1972, which was a year of great happiness for me but also great loneliness.  It's a great song because it points out that in a moment, we can change from being the leaner to the leaned-on -- or vice versa.

Warning: the only video on YouTube for the following song is, shall we say, rated R.  View at your own risk.
Lullabye by Cris Williamson.  This 1978 song was introduced to me through the Christmas album Snow Angel; Cris Williamson's music in general I learned about from Cordeliaknits.  It's the most recent of the songs except for the next one.

How Could Anyone Ever Tell You by Libby Roderick (this video has it sung by Shaina Noll).  This year is the twentieth anniversary of this song, and Libby Roderick had a video contest for videos to go with it. There were several of them on YouTube, but oddly enough, this one, which doesn't appear to have been part of the contest, seemed to me to capture the spirit of the song best of all.

I hope some of my younger and/or hipper readers will comment about comfort songs written more recently!


Songbird said...

I love that Libby Roderick song. I first heard it at Pilgrim Lodge, and I got a t-shirt for Pure Luck with the lyrics on it. Lovely.

LutheranChik said...

I LOVE "Sweet Baby James"!

LutheranChik said...

Oh...and here's another song for your list, from (I believe) a Mainer -- Catie Curtis' "Dad's Yard."

Cathy said...

Well, I am neither younger or hipper, but the Libby Roderick one is just beautiful. Thank you for sharing.