I was reading a blog this morning where the author was recalling the music from 1968. She mentioned the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Procol Harem. I read through the list and was dismayed to find no mention of my all time fave - John Denver. What's up with that? Was I the only one who spent a great deal of my teenage angst on the fact that I wasn't Annie; that John wasn't singing directly to me?
I don't remember the year but I was cool enough to join some other girls at a Beach Boys concert. My first such outing I believe. I was stuck in the nose bleed section of the Coliseum barely able to see the floral design on the "Boys'" shirts. I think my first clue that I was out of my league and totally un-cool was the fact I expected to sit with my hands in my lap and listen to the music. Oh sure, I would have clapped my hands, or tapped my feet, but standing against the rail, pulling at my hair and screaming like those California boys were to die for seemed a little bit over the top to me. Did I do it? Sure. I was always one to blend in even if it meant screaming like a fool. To this day, I don't get the hullabaloo that goes on during a concert that everyone paid an extraordinary sum to attend.
I never went to a John Denver concert. I had an opportunity to do so shortly before his death. I think, however, I had crossed an I'm-too-old-for-that-kind-of-nonsense line. Sitting on the ground for hours before an outdoor concert only to have people stand up and scream blocking my view didn't appeal much to me. Party girl that I am, I opted to stay home. Then the guy went and flew his plane into the ocean.
In "American Pie," Don McLean sings about "the day the music died." I know it's not about a goofy folk singer with shaggy hair and hippy glasses. But I cried when I heard the news of Denver's untimely death. For me, the music did die that day.
I have a letter stuck away in one of my journals that I wrote to Denver when I was in one of my biggest funks. I wrote it as I sat in the middle of the living room floor crying over the loss of my love, sunshine on my shoulder, and a country road to take me home. I think it was a letter thanking him for immortalizing my life in his songs. (Is that what psychologists call being narcissistic? It's all about me?) I wanted him to know that when he sang, he was saying the words I felt but couldn't find. In my overly dramatic way, I was thinking of ending my life and wanted the letter to be one of those found in my belongings. It sounds stupid now, but it was very real then.*
At that time John and Annie had broken up (no more believing in fairy tales for me) so his songs were full of gloom - just like my life. I listened broken-hearted for him, for me and for lovers everywhere. "How can I leave you again," he sang about leaving Annie to play his music. I changed the words to "how can YOU leave me again?" about my husband leaving for yet another deployment.
Yes, he sang some sad songs, but he also sang "Wide Montana Skies" and "I Want to Live." Songs that even today I associate with smiling and keeping me in this world. The former was one of those songs that you turn up loud and push repeat so it plays over and over again. The drive to school wasn't very long but several teenage girls and one mom got our blood moving with that little ditty.
"I want to live" became my mantra. When I considered a bottle of pills a way out, or a looked at a kitchen knife wondering if it was sharp enough, I repeated softly to myself "IwanttoliveIwant to liveIwanttolive. As I moved from dark back to light I made a quilt that symbolized my inner butterfly breaking out of her crysalis and embroidered those words along the border. Writing John Denver a letter to say he'd saved my life didn't seem so far fetched.
Fast forward to this week. I grabbed a JD Greatest Hits cd and went for a ride. I needed to put some space between me and the boys. The songs filled my car, wrapping me in a blanket of bittersweet but comfortable memories. There were no teenagers in the car with me, but I belted out "wide Montana skies" if I was singing in the Morman Temple.
Then quietly, almost reverently Denver began to sing:
"There are children raised in sorrow on a scorched and barren plain ...."
As I took my foot off the brake and moved forward I decided "I Want to Live" should be the official IWD Blog Party theme song. I'm not computer savvy enough to know how to link up with You tube or vice versa so I'll just give you this site and you can go there and take a peak. See if you don't agree. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuB3_HLcFfk
Hoping that each of you will feel sunshine on your shoulder and smile for the man and his music,