Alright, I have tried and tried and tried to remember a book I read about doing epic things. It is not on my Goodreads list, but I have only used Goodreads to catalog my reading for a few years so…
The book was about people taking on big challenges. Some of the examples were more personal, like blogging every day for a year. While other examples were life changing, like climbing a mountain when the person was 60 years old. The main theme was about taking on a goal that stretches one’s skills while making us face emotional aspects, like fear or patience. (If you recognize this book, please share the title with me on Twitter or in the comment section.)
I just finished another book (which is on my Goodreads list), 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die. I have read 182 of the books on the list. I have an epic challenge and I only have 26 years to complete the challenge, according to the data from Statista about life expectancy.
I found an epic challenge.
But I also have another epic challenge, based on another book, The Late Starters Orchestra. Which is the story of Ari L. Goldman’s journey of playing the cello with The Late Starters Orchestra. No, I am not going to learn to play the cello, I am going back to the piano. I have some musical background. I learned to play the drums in fifth grade. I taught myself how to play a few songs on the piano in junior high. I came back to the drums at a school I used to work for a couple of years ago. The band director and I both had the same planning period, so once a week he would let me practice on the drums.
Sometimes when I write a poem, I can almost hear a song with it. I have had the privilege of working with P.R. while creating my poetic projects Stargazer and Just. He does an amazing job connecting music to my poetic lines. (Some new projects are in development.)
I doubt that I will ever be able to really write a song, but I want to try. I want to experience the beauty of creating music, to add another level of joy to my life, even though I will go through some rough spots learning to play the piano. That’s learning though.
So here is to my two new epic adventures in my life. Are you heading out on an adventure or in the middle of one? Share your story with me.
A few weeks ago I attended an online education conference. The keynote speaker shared some information that got me thinking. He said that the use of the word “Love” had been decreasing in music. He did not provide any reference for this information. I tried to find a source to collaborate what he said. I couldn’t, but it still got me thinking because I use pop culture in my classes to make connections for the students. So, I decided to do an unofficial analysis of the top three songs from 2020, 2010, 2000, 1990, 1980, 1970, 1960, and 1950 according to Billboard’s Year End Hot 100 chart. I thought the top three songs from the years listed would give a good snapshot of what was popular at that time.
I created word clouds from the lyrics of the top three songs for the year. The most used words are larger in size. Stop words were automatically deleted (this was a challenging decision because these words were used in titles, but using them cluttered the word clouds). I removed all words that only appeared once in the songs. I’ll start with the word cloud, list the top three songs, and then share my insight briefly. Again, this is an unofficial look at these songs, but it is worth thinking about. Let’s start with 1950.
1 . “Goodnight Irene” by Gordon Jenkins & The Weavers
2 . “Mona Lisa” by Nat King Cole
3 . “Third Man Theme” (Instrumental) by Anton Karas
It is obvious that names are the most used words in this word cloud, especially since one of the songs was an instrumental. “Lovely” does appear in the list.
1. “Theme from A Summer Place” by Percy Faith
2. “He’ll Have to Go” by Jim Reeves
3. “Cathy’s Clown” by The Everly Brothers
“Love” is a main word, but not the most used. The overall feel of the word cloud is about relationships. I find it interesting that we have a name again as a main word.
1. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
2. “(They Long to Be) Close to You” by The Carpenters
3. “American Woman” by The Guess Who
This word cloud is tough to get a general feel for because the top three songs are so different in theme and style. The word “love” does not show up in any form.
1. “Call Me” by Blondie
2. “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” by Pink Floyd
3. “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John
Knowing the songs, I was surprised that the words “brick” or “wall” were not more prominent. But “love” appears as a main word again, even with such a diverse group of songs.
1. “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips
2. “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette
3. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinéad O’Connor
These songs had a similar vibe, which actually made for a smaller word cloud. “Love” is present now in three out of five word clouds, four if you count “lovely” in the 1950 word cloud.
1. “Breathe” by Faith Hill
2. “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas
3. “Maria Maria” by Santana featuring The Product G&B
“Love” makes it into the word cloud (I did not place it in the center). Funny how Santana owned the year 2000, his name is a prominent word in the word cloud, too.
1. “Tik Tok” by Kesha
2. “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum
3. “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train
This word cloud is filled with a variety of words, but “love” is not one of them. The songs range in topic and style, which presents a mumbled visual. I did notice that there are now words like “drunk” and “party”. Not that these words have never been in a song before, but these are the top three songs for that year.
1. “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd
2. “Circles” by Post Malone
3. “The Box” by Roddy Ricch
“Love” makes it into the word cloud, but what you don’t see in this visual may be of more importance. This is the first word cloud that I deleted derogatory terms and the F-word.
This is an unofficial look at the lyrics of popular songs. It is by no means meant to make a blanket statement about music or our culture. But it is worth thinking about because words have power, and our kids are singing these songs, making TiKTok videos to them. Pop Culture delivers a message to our society. Songs are part of that message. What are your thoughts on what you see happening with lyrics over the decades?
We are in the second week of school. We have our routine. Part of it is the drive to school. We have a certain radio station we listen to, we talk about the upcoming day. This morning my youngest daughter was enjoying the drive to school because the radio seemed to play all her favorite songs.
As soon as the music for the next song started to play she would say, “Ooohhh, I like this song!” Then she would read the title of the song off of the display and start singing along.
Singing with her, I was reminded of the simple joys in life.
Especially right now. Life is different. Part of our routine is making sure everyone has their mask for school. As a nation, I feel like we are crumbling under the weight of all the lines drawn in our society. Political. Cultural. Pandemic Issues. So many issues dissecting us, cutting up our sense of community and identity as a nation.
These are troubling times.
Yet, the simple joys intertwine in our daily life. A good cup of coffee. Hot cheese bread at dinner. Snack before bed… and a daughter who likes the next song on the radio…
In 2018 I wrote a blog about twenty years of marriage based on songs. I enjoyed writing that blog, so I thought it would be fun to revisit 2019 through music. So, grab your headphones and travel with me as I share 2019 through songs.
One of the biggest moments in 2019 was when I decided to audition for the musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. And I did because I got the part of Vice Principal Douglas Panch. I had a blast. (Here is the blog post about that experience: What I am Learning.)
His name is Brett, and he is a service tech at the Honda dealership in Joliet, Illinois. Long story short; he got us home after our mini van broke down during a basketball tournament in Chicago this summer. Brett is a good person.
Staying with the basketball theme, this is one of the songs my second son likes to listen to to get ready for basketball. After the Chicago trip, his team went undefeated for the rest of the summer. Through all the miles and hotel rooms, ponds, and fruit smiles, the show goes on… and as a dad, I couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments.
My oldest son ended his high school acting career playing Tevye from the play, Fiddler on the Roof. I cried. As a father, there is nothing that breaks your heart more than the joy of seeing your children shine doing what they love. My oldest son has been acting since he was 9 years old. Watching his last performance was one of the best moments I’ve had as a dad.
I’ll end with this song from Macklemore… Even though it was released in 2017, this was a major song for me in 2019.
Share the song that best represents 2019 for you in the comments…
We have a hard rule in our house; you can’t say you dislike anything until you have tried it. Yes, it helps us to get the kids to eat their vegetables at dinner (there are some vegetables that are not served in our house, but it is because we have at least tried them), but the rule stands also for other issues. From Justin Beiber to reading The Chronicles of Narnia. We don’t let the kids just spat out other peoples’ opinions. Or to just dismiss something without at least knowing something about it so that they can form their own opinion.
This approach isn’t always easy, even as elementary students the playground conversation can get negative and degrading. I am amazed at times with the negative opinions my children express at the dinner table and the range of topics these opinions cover, from songs about Barney the Dinosaur (not happy songs!) to political issues. With just a couple of questions, I discover that the opinion comes from the playground. My wife and I then lead the discussion for them to express what they know of the topic. We help them to formulate what their opinion is based off what they actually know. Other times, sadly, we have to simply say, no that is not appropriate. Usually with songs they learn, but it still expresses an opinion.
As a dad, this saddens me in a number of ways. I actually enjoy helping them learn about the world. To discuss issues, to question them and yes, sometimes I over analyze things (did you know how many different themes are present in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast?). But when did this all become so negative? What is wrong with liking something? Why do we have to fight so hard to have our own ideas?
Why is our first reaction to something negative? As an English teacher this attitude is almost a cliché.
Courtesy of Flickr user piper caldwell
“I hate reading.”
“I hate poetry.”
“I hate English.”
I have no problem when a student says they dislike a poem, after they have read it. In fact, it means the poem actually affected them and gives me something to discuss with them.
What sadness me the most, and not just for my kids but for my students too, is the lost opportunities because of this attitude. The depth of our life is not created by others’ attitudes but through our experiences. And those experiences have to be both positive and negative. Those opposites give us the parameters to build our own views. To make this life our own.