The Power of Songs

Songs & Stories From Home Episode 5
Episode Audio
Songs & Stories From Home Episode 5

We will be talking here often about the many different ways I believe songs sung, stories told, and love shared can lead us home – because of the role popular folk music has played and continues to play in my life – I thought I would start by talking about the power of that music – as well as how far we can see sometimes in a darkened room or when our eyes are closed and we are simply absorbing and absorbed in the music.

In the fall of 1961 I was fourteen– my third school in three years – the year before I was in private school where I’d taken some advanced classes – so now here I was a 9th grader at the high school – in freshman homeroom – taking mostly sophomore classes – while kids I’d previously gone to school with were either at the junior high or the private school. I was a sort of silly guy with undiagnosed dyslexia who turned out for freshman football – got hurt – walked away – to the surprise of the coaches came back – finished the season – continuing to try to make my way and find a few friendly faces in a school of over 3000 kids.

Rock and Roll had officially entered the white suburban mainstream when Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956. Two years later The Kingston Trio offered an acoustic alternative when their version of “Tom Dooley” topped the charts in November of 1958. Over the next five years those two types of music competed for popularity among Baby Boomers. Then in November of 1963 President Kennedy was murdered. Seventy-nine days later – February 9, 1964 - The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan’s Show – the screaming no longer in horror but in hope and delight – as the soundtrack of a generation began to change forever.

But back to the fall of 1961 - I was a certifiable folkie who knew the names of everyone in The Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four, The Chad Mitchell Trio, The Limeliters, as well as the first names of the two Smothers Brothers, and the last names of Peter, Paul, and Mary. Each of these groups was releasing 2 or 3 long playing albums a year and any money I could earn or get a hold of and any suggestions for my birthday or Christmas gifts included the latest of those recordings.
I had a used 15 dollar Silvertone guitar from the Blessing and Tuie (sp) Music Store as well as a 20 dollar banjo I got at a downtown pawnshop. A woman at church, Helen Louise Landsverk, was teaching me guitar. Dutch Groshoff was chain smoking Salem cigarettes while separately teaching my older brother and me banjo out of a back room at the music store. I was horrified and heartbroken that Dutch often spent the first half of my half hour lesson telling me what a star my brother was. Heartbroken, yes, but I was also determined

For lots of years growing up I had a room of my own. When I started high school I got a portable record player that not only played 45’s or singles but 33 1/3 LP’s or long playing vinyl records. 
The record player was on a small table next to the bed. The album covers often strewn on the floor. In the high fidelity world it’s taboo to stack LP’s but in the world of a single 3-inch speaker I stacked as many as four or five LP’s on top of each other and eventually the extra scratching sounds the songs acquired simply became part of my listening experience.  
When it was time to turn the light out I would usually choose one album – place it on the turntable – listen as it dropped – and the arm with the semi-precious diamond needle moved toward and then touched the black vinyl. My eyes were usually closed. For that moment in my waking dream I was Chad, Dave, Mike, Lou, Bob, Dick, Tom, or John. If I was still awake when the arm of that record player finished its trip and began to turn itself off – I could imagine – in that dark room – with my eyes closed - some of the silent cheers that only I could hear were for me.

What I could not have imagined then was how many kids – in their bedrooms – or sitting near the wood cabinet of the family hi-fi– were listening to those same songs – embedding their dreams and creating their own memories that would last them – and us - a lifetime.

These days during a Brothers Four performance I often catch a glimpse of someone in the front row eyes closed in the darkened hall – sometimes leaning back slightly - mouths quietly – and sometimes not so quietly - forming the words to the songs – then after the show – out in the lobby – they may come up – smiling – sometimes eyes glistening – declaring how every word came back to them and how grateful they are to have such powerful memories gently and fully awakened and somehow – at least for a moment in the darkness – to know what it is to feel young again.


In the dark light of my bedroom all those many years ago
Putting chords and words together a song from the radio
When I sang and played it close to right like something lost was found
Was how the song made me feel then still makes me feel now
The first time that I sang that song it held a young man’s dreams
While every time I sing it now holds An Old Man’s Memories

There’s something ‘bout that old song I learned when it was new
All the people and the places shared it with and sang it to
It sort of tells the story ‘bout a man finding his way
The twists and turns come back alive when I sing it today
The first time that I sang that song it held a young man’s dreams
While every time I sing it now holds An Old Man’s Memories

There are songs each time we hear them that is music to our ears
Something awakens deep inside only our hearts can hear
If that won’t keep us singing then the answer’s nothing will
God knows I’m a believer and that I am singing still
The first time that I sang that song it held a young man’s dreams
While every time I sing it now holds An Old Man’s Memories

©Copyright 2018
Love Gives More Music

Songs & Stories From Home | Mark Pearson Music

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