“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination,
and life to everything.”
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”
– Ephesians 5:19
Maybe I’m snow phobic. Whenever I’m watching a movie and snow starts falling, it makes my tear ducts activate and the waterworks start. “Dr. Zhivago” had me gnawing the theater carpet. “Frosty the Snowman,” that brute, turns me into sloppy slush.
The blame for my snowfall bawling goes mostly to the accompanying soundtrack. Music powerfully elicits positive, and also negative, emotions. Think of the spine-tingling cringe as you are hearing the creepy, dissonant music in the shower scene at the Bates Motel in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” The actual “stabbing sound” was made by a sound engineer stabbing a Casaba melon.
Pardon the sniffles someone might get at the end of “Home Alone,” a Christmastime story with blizzards of billowing snow when Kevin McCallister is re-UNITING with his mom. Academy Award film music legend John Williams’ violins melt the hearts of even the most hardened “Hallmark Christmas” movie dismissing stoics.
S.U.N.S. MUSIC is about making the choice to add joy to your world with sounds which particularly lift your spirits, not just during the holidays, but every day, year-round. Music appreciation is subjective. S.U.N.S. MUSIC is delightfully personal; it’s what makes YOU think happy thoughts and feel joyous.
S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) is the acronym “The JOYrontologist” developed after 40 years researching and studying “joyous aging.” Keep these four, simple elements in mind as you create your own personal S.U.N.S. MUSIC soundtrack for your life. My “joyous playlist” changes almost every week with new, happy finds, but here are “The Top 40” bits of happiness and contentment I’m currently enjoying which might inspire your own.
S.U.N.S. MUSIC (Smile-Making)
“I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing.” – William James
- “WALKING ON SUNSHINE” by Katrina and the Waves is an unabashedly upbeat song written by the British rock band’s guitarist, Kimberley Rew, in 1983. She calls the eternally sunshine-y hit, “a piece of simple fun, an optimistic song.”
- “PIANO SONATA No. 17” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was like “Walking on Sunshine,” first performed by a girl; in this case by the composer’s student, Barbara Ployer, in 1784. The finale of this 18-minute SMILE-MAKING “vunder ding” was inspired by the trilling of Mozart’s pet starling.
- “DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY” is reggae-tinged, lilting happiness by American musician, Bobby McFerrin. It was the first a cappella song to reach no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The “instrument” sounds were overdubbed from McFerrin’s voice. The joyous phrase, “Don’t worry, be happy” was popular on posters and other imprintables several years prior to the songwriting. The somewhat forgettable film, “Cocktail,” brought this unforgettable, jaunty joy to the world.
- “SHINY, HAPPY PEOPLE” was created by the American rock band, R.E.M., and inspired by Chinese government propaganda. Guest vocals are by Kate Pierson of the joy-giving party band, B-52s.
- “HOW GREAT THOU ART” is a rousing, Christian hymn associated with the Billy Graham crusades and was based on the Swedish hymn “O Store Gud.”
- “ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE” is British “stiff upper lip” sung with vats of warm beer-drenched irony as singalongs in pub, at football matches as well as funerals. It was written by Monty Python comedy genius, Eric Idle, and first heard in the film, “Life of Brian.”
- “WHEN THE ROLL IS CALLED UP YONDER” has been one of my favorite SMILE-MAKING songs since growing up in the Southern Baptist church. It was also a favorite of High Anglican, Winston Churchill. As an Episcopalian, I’ve moved closer to Churchill, but all the “kick ass” stridency of The Broadman Hymnal remains my favorite church music. Onward with blessedly confident assurance and choral superiority, Christian soldiers.
- “GREAT BALLS OF FIRE” sold a million records in the first ten days it was released by Jerry Lee Lewis in 1957. It’s on my current, S.U.N.S. MUSIC playlist to honor Mr. Lewis who died earlier this week. A few years back, Jerry Lee Lewis’ daughter was seated next to me at a fun dinner at Monmouth Plantation in Natchez, Mississippi, and we performed an impromptu duet of some lyrics of that song with cocktail glass accompaniment—“GOODNESS GRACIOUS, GREAT BALLS OF FIRE!” Goodness wasn’t always associated with “The Killer,” but he was indeed one of the SMILE-MAKING greats.
- “I GOT RHYTHM” was a show tune composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by his brother, Ira, for the 1930 musical, “Girl Crazy.” The creative syncopation became a springboard for many jazz songs. Ira Gershwin said that he originally titled it “Who Could Ask for Anything More?” because that line is repeated a number of times but he opted for “I Got Rhythm” because the first four compelling notes are more “arresting.”
- “DANCE OF THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY” is a highlight of Tchaikovsky’s compositions for “The Nutcracker” ballet. The choreographer wanted this dance to sound like “drops of water sprinkling from a fountain” and the composer found an obscure instrument called a “celesta” which looks like a piano but sounds like bells. Don’t wait for this Christmas chestnut, it can get you up on your tippy toes, today.
S.U.N.S. MUSIC (Uniting)
“Love is the harmony of two souls singing together.” – Gregory J. P. Godek
- “YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE” is a Broadway show tune by Rodgers and Hammerstein introduced in the musical, “Carousel” in 1945. The song became an anthem to honor medical workers and “first responders” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elvis turned his version into a church song and it’s rawtha glorious but my personal fave for a playlist is by Josh Groban.
- “COUNT ON ME” by Hawaiian singer-songwriter, Bruno Mars, is in the “folk tropical” genre. The 2010 move-and-groove details the importance of friendship and communicates it with boatloads of positivity.
- “WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN” is a Christian hymn from 1907 which many of us associate with Hank Williams, Sr. It particularly is about how we have cherished UNITING with others now departed. The opening lines are:
“There are loved ones in the glory,
Whose dear forms you often miss.
When you close your earthly story,
Will you join them in their bliss?”
- “PARACHUTE” by country singer-songwriter, Chris Stapleton, co-created with Jim Beavers, was a 2016 hit. (Note: With this week’s S.U.N.S. MUSIC compilation, we’ve already gone from 1784 to 2016. As you create your personal playlist, you’ll find centuries of joy UNITING you with those people about whom you deeply care.) The most memorable line from this 21st century ode to joy is “Baby, I will be your parachute.”
- “WE ARE FAMILY” by Sister Sledge went “gold” becoming no. 1 on both the R&B and “pop” charts in 1979. Billboard Magazine ranks this song no. 20 in its “100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.”
- “PEOPLE” composed by Jule Styne with lyrics by Bob Merrill was one of many great songs in the 1964 musical, “Funny Girl.” Great versions of this song can be YouTubed, including those by: Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, The Supremes, Nat King Cole and a somewhat popular rendition by Barbra Streisand.
- “I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU” was written and originally recorded by Dolly Parton as a farewell message to her business partner and co-performer, Porter Wagoner. Soul and disco singer, Whitney Houston, had a great success with the Parton song done as a “soul ballad.” Houston’s version sold 20 million records worldwide and is “The Best-Selling Solo Record by a Female of All Time.”
- “MY HEART WILL GO ON” was the theme song recorded by Celine Dion for the 1997 Oscar-winning, James Cameron directed film, “Titanic.”
- “YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE” is a 1940s song co-written by two-term Governor of Louisiana, Jimmie Davis, and Charles Mitchell. This sweet tune has been recorded by 350+ artists and translated into 30 languages.
- “HOLD ON, I’M COMING” was inspired by songwriter, Isaac Hayes, returning to the music studio after a bathroom break. The major hit was recorded by soul duo, Sam and Dave.
S.U.N.S. MUSIC (Neighboring)
“It is not worth singing for ourselves; it is nicer if two people sing together. Then more people: hundreds, thousands, until the huge ‘harmony’ can be heard in which we can all be just one, indeed. Then will we be able to say: ‘May the world be happy.’” – Zoltan Kodaly
- “WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?” was inspired by a Beethoven sonata but another creative gent is more associated with the music because the simple, piano tune version is the opening theme of the children’s show, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” You know the words, kiddo. Go ahead, spread a warm smile across your face and enjoy it.
- “I LOVE THIS BAR” performed and co-written by country megastar, Toby Keith, is one of the most neighbor-befriending singalongs of the 21st century. The song inspired a chain of eateries individually branded as, wait for this—I Love This Bar & Grill.
- “FIX YOU” was written collectively by the four members of the British rock group, Coldplay, to comfort Gwyneth Paltrow, then the wife of band member, Chris Martin, after the death of her beloved dad. The words promise that when you feel broken, I promise to be there to try to make things better for you and help you—“fix you.” The sentiment is about the UNITING of a couple but the lovely gesture of adding your creativity as a group to help someone is divinely NEIGHBORING.
- “EVERYBODY HURTS” by American rockers, R.E.M., is an argument against suicide and was aimed to a teen audience. The simplistic message is unnuanced, blunt yet loving.
- “WE ARE THE WORLD” is a charity single created in 1985 by a music supergroup, USA FOR AFRICA. 20 million records were sold to support humanitarian aid. Volunteers included: Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner and many others.
- “TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS” was a 1969 hit for the “Rhinestone Cowboy,” Glen Campbell. With a jingle-jangle tune and NEIGHBORING advice to “try kindness…and overlook the blindness of narrow-minded people” this is easy to love and share.
- “WE BUILD” by Nichole Nordeman is another spiritual song in my list but one with lyrics that particularly resonate with our heightened awareness of climate change and potential crisis.
“We clear away what was and make room for what will be.
If you hold the nails, I’ll take the hammer.
I’ll hold it still if you’ll climb the ladder.
If you will, then I will build.”
28. “PEOPLE HELPING OTHER PEOPLE” takes my playlist all the way from Mozart to Barney, yes, the purple dinosaur. This is about NEIGHBORING—don’t judge. Barney’s joyful ode to helpers gives “shout outs” to teachers, police and doctors but includes all of us in the catchy chorus:
“Cause people helping other people
Is what this world is about.
And the people who are helping other people
We couldn’t do without.”
29. “WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES” was a huge hit for singer-songwriter, Joe South in 1970. This was another tumultuous time for America society and the message is about racial tolerance and the NEIGHBORING for perspective and compassion.
30. “I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU (theme for “Friends”)” by The Rembrandts is certainly one of the most well-known of the S.U.N.S. MUSIC songs list. It resides somewhere between Mozart and Barney sharing a cup at Central Perk, the fictional coffee shop on the television sit-com “Friends.” You know the tune, here’s the chorus:
“I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour).
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before).
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too.)”
“You have to take a deep breath and allow the music to flow through you. Revel in it, allow yourself to awe.”- Kelly White
31. ”BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY” by Queen is a “mock opera” which I can’t swear to you I even understand other than it’s sort of a frenzied, art school assemblage written and warbled by Freddie Mercury as a maybe, maybe anthem for creative rebels. This 1975, six-minute suite is a work I continue to find mind-boggling and SPELLBINDING.
32. “BACH: THE GOLDBERG VARIATIONS” which was first published in 1741 is a masterwork I found particularly comforting and transporting after my parents each died. The recording I have run a needle through is from 1956 by the Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould. If you prefer strings, there is a grand recording of the composition, or perhaps it is plural since Johann Sebastian Bach wrote this as a ballet aria with thirty distinct variations, performed by YoYo Ma.
33. “JUST DANCE” by Lady Gaga is up-tempo “electro-pop” nightclubbing music. It’s not rocket science though it does get one out of one’s head and onto the dance floor. The artist commented on her career-propelling hit—“Everyone is looking for a song that really speaks to the joy in our souls and in our hearts and having a good time…”
34. “THE FOUR SEASONS” written as four violin concertos in 1720 by Antonio Vivaldi, take one to the Italian countryside in each of the four seasons of the year. “Spring” is the most popular because of all the joyful budding and renewed sunshine but I’m writing this in Fall while listening to “Autumn” and it too is sublime—all four are. No need to choose between them, all are magnifico!
35. “SOS” by Abba—OK, every song by this Swedish rock group, even “Fernando.”
36. “BABY SHARK” by PinkFong is definitely an “earworm” but it’s so addicting. If I were marooned on an island and could only hear one musical genre, I suppose I’d choose to hear the intricate complexity of classical, but “Baby Shark” is SMILE-MAKING and can be mind-numbing and in that way—SPELLBINDING. Some close friends recently announced they are expecting another child, so “Baby Shark” is on my playlist. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Now everybody singalong: “Baby shark doo doo doo doo doo doo. Mommy shark doo doo doo doo doo. Daddy shark doo….”
37. “LIBERTANGO” by Astor Piazzolla, yes it’s tango but it’s not severe, it’s liberated—“nuevo tango.” Ole!
38. “WANNABE” by The Spice Girls was written in less than 30 minutes of brainstorming by the British “besties” who were actually recruited by an advertisement campaign. It begins with a recorded “laugh” and is about female friendships triumphing over romantic couplings. Wait, did you just stifle a yawn? It’s still captivating and some SMILE-MAKING fun.
39. “WORK” by Rihanna with Drake “guesting” is about working for a living but having some fun along the way. It’s reggae-infused pop and very dancehall SPELLBINDING.
40. “ODE TO JOY” is best known as Ludwig von Beethoven’s final (fourth movement) of his Ninth Symphony which he completed in 1824. The symphonic masterpiece was inspired by a poem written by German poet/playwright Friedrich Schiller in the summer of 1785 which he originally titled “Ode to Freedom.” The music eclipsed the words.
S.U.N.S. MUSIC has many ways to bolster “joyous aging.” Michelle Crouch, writing in an article titled “13 Incredible Ways Music Benefits You” (Readers Digest Magazine, June 2018) reminded me of something I’ve witnessed on multiple occasions. She wrote, “Maybe you’ve heard about Alzheimer’s patients coming alive when they hear a song from their past. Studies show that music helps them retrieve memories, communicate more effectively, and remember who they are.”
JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK
Nov. 5—Odell Beckham, Jr.
Nov. 6—John Philip Sousa
Nov. 8—Bonnie Raitt
Nov. 9—Carl Sagan
Nov. 11—Jonathan Winters
MUSICAL BENNE SEED WAFERS—SOUTH CAROLINA BENNE SEEDS
Each week, “The JOYrontologist” shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. This collection is called “The S.U.N.S. Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life.
- 1 cup Benne (sesame) seeds
- 1-1/4 cup packed, light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. baking powder
- 1-1/4 to 2-1/2 cups 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking chips
- 2 tsp. shortening or coconut oil
- Preheat oven to 350F. Place Benne seeds on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until fragrant and lightly browned, 10-15 minutes; cool.
- Reduce oven temp to 300F. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar and butter until crumbly. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Gradually beat into sugar mixture. Add cooled Benne seeds and stir to combine.
- Roll level teaspoons of mixture into balls. Place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Reduce oven temperature to 250F; bake until set, but still soft, 18-20 minutes. Cool on pan 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the chocolate drizzle, melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl uncovered at 50% power until melted. Stop and stir every 30 seconds. In total, this shouldn’t take more than 90 seconds. Stir in the shortening (or coconut oil) until combined.
- Drizzle the chocolate over the wafers, making sure the cookies are totally cool first. You can also dip the wafers. Let the chocolate stand until set before storing.
1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS FROM MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued)
941. “The Sound of Music” story, film, music
942. “Wheel of Fortune” by Kay Starr, the no. 1 song the year I was born
943. Learning to “jitterbug” to “Rock Around the Clock”
944. Sheb Wooley singing “The Purple People-Eater” at my Terry kinfolks’ music theme park, “Terry Town” in Loretto, Tennessee
945. Singing “Just a Bowl of Butterbeans” with Bob Cain and The Canebreakers to the tune of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”
946. Slow dancing to a recording of the theme from “A Summer Place”
947. Hearing Billy Joe Royal sing “Down in the Boondocks” at the National Guard Armory
948. Being on groovy Carnaby Street in London and singing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”
949. Hanging out at Fame Studios with the vibes of Aretha and Mick
950. Knowing somebody who knew Toni Tennille before she hooked up with the Captain
951. Doing the “King Tut” to “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles
952. “The Music Man” especially performed as a community musical
HAPPY NEW WEEK, JOYOUSLY ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC!
Read all the installments in this series at www.cullmantribune.com/tag/odes-to-joy-2022.