Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #13 (The “Songs That Helped Me Be Somewhere Else for a While” Version)


For starters, I’d like to point out that I blame Anthony over at “Runaway American Dream” for this week’s topic. This is not a bad kind of blame, more of a fact check, in case this post goes south and no one likes it. I once again fell under his spell and was perhaps led down an errant path. This often happens when I visit his site. I do my regular check-in, just trying to be neighborly, and he will ensnare me with his fascinating takes on life and relationships and, here’s the kicker with this post, music. The man knows of which he speaks.

Anthony recently did a post on his (current) Top Ten folk songs. One of the contenders on his list was Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”. I tried very hard to give his other mentions fair justice, but the game was basically over when I stumbled across that pick. I heart this song greatly, and as I happily hit “play” on the audio clip that Anthony thoughtfully (and usually) provided, I knew what was going to be served at this Sunday’s park lark. (By the way, the following are not necessarily my favorite wistful songs of all time, they are just the first that popped into my head. I invite you to add your own thoughts in the comments, as a favorite song can tell you quite a bit about a person. Or nothing at all.) And here we go…

ONE. Simon and Garfunkel – “The Boxer”

I’ll just chastely paste my comment to Anthony and call it good.

“I’d have to go with ‘The Boxer’ in this batch, although it’s fair to say that I didn’t know a few of them. The song has helped me escape and transcend at times when I really needed to do so. The ‘I am leaving, I am leaving’ bit, the soaring of the lie la lies, and that exhale at the end. Goose bumps, even now…”

TWO. Cat Stevens – “Father and Son”

I’ve babbled about this song before, so excuse the repetition, but the lyrics are an encapsulation of what I experienced with my own father. Our relationship was strained, to put it mildly (which should come as no surprise to many fathers and sons) and there was a wall that I so wished was not there, but it was, and the division was sharp. Cat Steven’s decision to sing the song in two different octaves to represent the two figures makes it even more powerful, more real. As a young lad, I would put my headphones on and bellow both parts, trying to find meaning, trying to find peace. (Much to the chagrin of anyone within a five-mile radius.)

THREE. 10,000 Maniacs – “Verdi Cries”

At first listen, this is merely a song about a young woman on holiday, absorbing and learning and processing. Yet it’s much more than that. The mood, the imagery, and Natalie Merchant’s tremulous-into-powerful vocals evoke a time and place that seems enchanting, even though it’s already dusted with regret and loss. And that instrumental part at the end? Holy cow. You can sing along with it. Or at least I do. Then again, I can sing along with any sound that moves me, because I do believe that making your own kind of music is one of the most satisfying ways to spend your time.

FOUR. A Chorus Line – “Original Cast Recording” (The Broadway play, not the crappy movie.)

This selection might make Anthony cringe, not sure, and I’m somewhat violating the rules by including every song in this seminal musical. But as a young gayling in the very red state of Oklahoma, the lyrics spoke to me immensely. (I ordered this, on 8-track, as one of my initial selections when I joined the Columbia House mail-order club. Remember that mess? They lured you in with a mesmerizing “8 tapes for the price of one!” shtick and then you were forced to order an additional 400 albums at full price before you satisfied your “contract”.)

Still, I played that soundtrack with a vengeance. I know every word to every song and, no surprise, I would bellow said songs until my family members desperately perused brochures featuring places they could send me to make the madness stop. I wanted so much to be in a place where nobody judged, and even if they did, we could all come together in the rousing finale with lots of high-kicks and some semblance of glittery peace.

FIVE. Oasis – “Wonderwall”

I can’t begin to tell you how many times, late at night, when I’m in a funk because the day up to that point has been a suckfest, that I’ve maneuvered to YouTube and watched and listened to this song via my ubiquitous headphones. It’s not the greatest video in the world (I skewered it on my original Backup Dancers From Hell site back in the day). Liam Gallagher’s vocals can be almost discordant at times (although he gets props for the lack of concern about what you might think, the determination of his tone). And I don’t even know what some of the lyrics mean. But the concept of someone, somewhere, being able to save you just by being there at the right time, well, who doesn’t yearn for that when the night is empty and the past haunts?

Okay, then. This might be the shortest “Park” I’ve done. And the least humorous. Neither of which were my intentions. I just started typing and let the words give the road shape. I like the songs that invite you on a journey that you didn’t expect, but once you get there, something feels like the home that should have been and you decide that it might be mighty fine to sit a spell and revel in the wisps of familiar truth. And hit the replay button…



24 replies »

  1. Hi Brian. I love The Boxer, too. And many other of their songs, such as America.
    I read Anthony’s post about his top10, and mentioned on it that I saw Garfunkel in concert last month. He had serious vocal problems for a few years, and was unable to sing. But he has recovered his voice, though it’s not quite what it used to be. I had never seen him before in concert, and was very glad to get the chance finally.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Neil. I did see your comment on Anthony’s post, and I’m a bit jealous. I’ve never seen Paul or Art in concert. (The closest I got, in a six degrees of separation kind of way, was when I had the chance to catch Edie Brickell, Paul’s future wife, when she did a gig with the New Bohemians in the funky Deep Ellum section of Dallas, just before their “Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars” album launched them into the big time.) There are so many Simon and Garfunkel songs I relish that it’s almost not fair that I singled one out… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was a wee little girl, I would stand on a swing and bellow at the top of my voice, “I’m on the Top of the World” by the Carpenters. Fast forward to me in high school and I’m crooning “The Logical Song” by Supertramp with a great deal of passion and angst. Still like both songs very much. No, I’m not bipolar, but thanks for caring. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, The Carpenters. Now you’ve got me on the verge of scribbling another post, as I think I could get a good three pages out of my infatuations with some of their songs. (Side Note: I also tried doing performance art on a swing set as a wee bairn, and I managed to flip the damn thing over. Sigh.) And I clearly remember the first time I heard “The Logical Song”. I was also in high school, and I had fallen asleep in front of the TV and my parents had left me there, because I was a deep sleeper at the time and there was no point in any relocation efforts. I awoke the next morning to find that someone had turned on the massive stereo cabinet (remember those?) and the song was playing. Even in my bleariness, I knew that song was for me…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the generous shout out Brian. The thing I really enjoy about posts like this is the way they get people talking about what they love. You also usually end up learning something you didn’t know.
    Nice selections btw.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re more than welcome on the shout out, as more people should have a chance to see what you do. And yes, it’s the discussions that can get kick-started by a post that often prove to be the more interesting part of the whole process. On some of my posts, my comments have run considerably longer than the post itself. Someone jumps in and the discussion boomerangs and away we go. Good times…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. mmm, I like The Boxer too, has some great imagery in it, but “I am a Rock” was my Simon and Garfunkel moody favourite …. “and a rock feels no pain, and an island never lies”.

    Paul Kelly – “If I could start today again” – makes me shiver in my soul, cause we’ve all been there and wished that.

    Randy Travis – “I told you so”

    from the “Scrubs” cast – “waiting for my real life to begin” – makes me cry, every single time. I’m sniffing it up now just thinking about it.

    Pink Floyd – “Comfortably Numb”

    Not sure re-reading these that this is what you were talking about, but they all let me sing them at the top of my lungs, allowing me to feel something that let me believe I could make it through.

    Music has muscles, it makes you feel, in good and bad ways, but it makes you feel. Sometimes the songs make you feel different things on different days, which means you are changing and growing but you can still love your music.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think this might be my favorite comment from you, because we are so on the same page with what you are saying. (Not to downplay your other comments, of course, as I always welcome what you have to say.) Music has an impact that is fluid, shifting, and how we respond to it can fluctuate day to day. In the end, though, it’s the songs we keep going back to that help us define what we are and help us choose the next forward path, wherever it may lead…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Narrowing down just a couple of songs would be hard, it’s more the artists and their sounds in which I like to lose myself. Queen… my first true love and an everlasting one at that (you thought I was going to say MB, didn’t you, :D, but yeah, he works too)

    BTW… The Boxer… love it, and love Simon and Garfunkel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Queen was such a brave and fearless and innovative group, unlike so many groups in the modern world. And it’s fair to say that picking a particular song is hard, because a song is often a reflection of what you know about the artist’s/group’s other work, and if you don’t know that foundation, the song may not have quite the same impact. And yes, I know you love you some MB, and I think he’s pretty swell as well, but I also know you appreciate good music in general and therefore I had no idea where you might go. But here’s a thought that might help me learn a tiny bit more about you: What do you think of Josh Groban, Five For Fighting, and Sarah McLachlan? Random, I know, but still curious…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had to think about this one, only because I wanted to give you a proper response. I’m not actually fond of any of them. While their songs and lyrics have great meaning, the music itself is rather boring. While MB is upbeat, Josh is a bit operatic. Five For Fighting and Sarah McLachlan are too folksy sounding for me, and of course, I immediately flash to the poor puppy commercial whenever I hear Sarah’s name… unfortunately, I despise ‘Angel’ for that very reason… those poor animals. Haunting. Now, George Michael is an awesome ballad singer with some great music, not only on the album Faith (One More Try, Kissing A Fool), but also with Listen Without Prejudice (Mother’s Pride was amazing). He is also the only artist I know that can match Freddie Mercury’s note in Somebody To Love and sound similar to Freddie.

        Oh, and by the way, Basia and Enya are rather talented as well. Time and Tide takes my breath away. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I am a Simon & Garfunkel fan. The Boxer is a great song. Although I am partial to Old Friends. I love Wonderwall but Champagne Supernova is my favorite. However it isn’t a good idea for me to listen to The Eagles Wasted Time. That is not for the faint of heart or late night cocktails.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Simon & Garfunkel are superb. I can put their greatest hits on replay and be happy for days. Champagne Supernova is pretty swell, but it’s Wonderwall that gets me. And since you’ve presented the challenge, I have Wasted Time queued up so I can listen to it a few beers later and test your theory… 😉


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