Great Music Has Emotion. Emotion Makes Great Music.
If you and I were ever to have a long talk about good music, you’d find that I will forgive a lot of sins if there’s real, unfaked, unabashed emotion and energy present. Case in point would be something as American as…grits. (We had a discussion that few to no things were truly an American contribution) Consider blues music, a genre that at it’s most typical is very, very structured. Even the solos are generally confined to one scale. But the great bluesmen of generations past told stories that moved the soul. Maybe it’s my internal old fogey talking, but I think if the generation of teens and 20-somethings took the time to listen to some B.B. King, some Lead Belly (Miss you, Jon), John Lee Hooker’s unique take on it, or Stevie Ray Vaughan’s modern-take on the art, they might find the prefabricated pop and rap they listen to now…somehow lacking.
I deeply regret not having an interest in the music of Ray Charles while he was still alive and touring. I reference this live take of Georgia On My Mind for two reasons. One, you can feel the emotional connection between the man and a song he’d become attached to. Many don’t know that it was actually a cover of a much older song written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, about Hoagy’s sister, named Georgia. But Ray took his love for the south and left no question. Two, improvising on a long-practiced piece, personally, only happens to me when I’m inspired by the song itself. To be blind but be so spellbound as to not let that be a hindrance for improvising new solos…I can hardly fathom it.
You left me for dead, but I don’t wanna search no more,
There’s nowhere to hide, so why don’t you come quietly, my love?
I wanted to say, to say that you sure proved the death of me,
Cause now I’ve reached a dead end, and I can’t go back,
But if I’m goin’ down, you’ll come with me.
Rob Dougan is best known for his contributions to the Matrix trilogy. Few knew that he had an album of his own, a wonderful blend of classical and electronica. He has a great Leonard Cohen-esque voice, and when he gets emotional at the end of Left Me For Dead it’s both chilling and moving. The album, as a whole, is the most depressing thing I’ve found thus far.
Only a few minutes after posting the first version of this I remembered Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”, to be covered many times thereafter. She was an amazing talent, and amazingly unknown by many in this generation. Word to the wise, the scat fill at the end is much more difficult than it sounds.
One of those overattacked, underrated bands, Aaron Lewis has a gift for telling the story as much with tone as with lyrics. “It’s Been A While” had a conciliatory tone, but “This Is It” is a heartbreaking acceptance of giving up, finding the mediocre to be a good enough life. It makes you just want to shake the guy, tell him “No, there is more to life than this.”
And sometimes a song can be full of emotion without any lyrics at all.