Songs Mean so Much

For reasons unknown to me, I want to write about some songs that I like. Songs always bring back memories to me and I always associate songs with the most profoundly moving experiences of my life. The song lyrics matter to as much as the musical arrangement. I must know a thousand songs by heart, most of them either in English or Hindi. To me, a song is just a poem sung to a tune. My liking for poetry goes along with my love of music, I suppose.

Just a moment ago, I was reading some random blog and the song If started playing in my head. … and when my love for life is running dry, you’ll come and pour yourself on me …. The song is by the pop group Bread. Cohen’s song Sisters of Mercy expresses as only he can put in words which console … if your life is leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn, they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem … .

Leonard Cohen is without doubt my favorite singer-songwriter. Paul Simon comes in a close second. I once met Paul Simon while waiting for a flight at JFK. The PAN AM First Class lounge was deserted and he was hanging out near the bar. I considered for a long time whether to not to disturb him. Surely he must value his privacy. But in the end, I gave in to the temptation and walked up and said hello. Told him that I loved his songs. Thanks, he said. I said, that my favorite lines are “ … so you see I have come to doubt, all that I once held was true; I stand alone without beliefs, the only truth I know is you … ”. He said that those lines are among his favorite as well. He autographed a cassette case I had with me.

Anyway, this one is turning out to be a bit of walk down memory lane.

Talking of memory, Al Stewart has a few songs that I will never tire of listening to. One Stage Before is a song about, how shall I put it, meeting for the first time people whom you may have met in your previous lifetimes.

But did they move upon the stage a thousand years ago, in some play in Paris or Madrid? And was I there among them then, in some travelling show, and is it all still locked inside my head—for infinity.

And some of you are harmonies to all the notes I play; although we may not meet still you know me well; While others talk in secret keys and transpose all I say, and nothing I do or try can get through the spell.
So one more time let’s dim the lights and ring the curtain up, and play again like all the times before; but far behind the music you can almost hear the sounds, Of laughter like the waves upon the shores—of Infinity.

From another of Al’s songs … our time is just a point along a line that runs forever with no end, I never thought that we would come to find ourselves upon this rock again … Go and tell Lord Grenville that the tide is on the turn …

Philosophical stuff. The rock group Kansas is an unlikely group to be waxing philosophical, you would think. But their song Dust in the Wind is pretty good … Now don’t hang on, nothing lasts for ever but the earth and sky; it slips away, and all your money won’t another minute buy; Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind; Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind … .

Old Hindi movie songs had amazing lyricists and the lyrics they wrote cannot be translated—at least by someone like me—without significant loss of signal and the introduction of culturally discordant noise. So while I treasure the words hundreds of old Hindi songs, I will not attempt to write them out here since too few people reading this blog know Hindi.

Well, that is it then. But before I go, just like that, here is a Sanskrit shloka, the Universal Mantra:

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaha
Sarve Santu ṇirāmayaha
Sarve Badrāṇi Pasyantu
Mā Kascidh-dhuhkha Bhāga-Bhavet
Shanti Shanti Shantihi

May all be happy.
May all be healthy.
May we all experience what is good
And let no one suffer
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace!

6 thoughts on “Songs Mean so Much

  1. Atanu, you might like Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. Both are mine current favourites- Marley specially had a lot to say against the superstitions, established order, freedom and Lord. His songs reflect the pathos and his feelings he went through.

    Dylan was considered for Nobel prize for literature. Cerebral stuff indeed.

    Though, for all times to come- it’s only metal that rules my life and senses.


  2. Old Hindi movie songs had amazing lyricists and the lyrics they wrote cannot be translated

    Yes Atanu.. not only in Hindi.. some old Indian films’ songs have amazing lyrics with simple music and clear pronounciation. Now its only sound of metals.


  3. hi atanu,

    i have never left a comment on any blog before (except on home turf) but can’t resist this one :). yes, songs mean so much. when i saw the title i couldnt help read on with immediate eagerness. you write so well, but i find this one of your weakest posts. i suspect it is because of the nature of the sentiment – songs define such a great part of your being that it is impossible to describe well what they mean to you. i know i would certainly face that problem. i am also a natural lyricophile so i completely see where you are coming from. if songs are first poems to you, then you must listen to dylan (as abhishek recommends too), and the grateful dead (poetry by robert hunter who wrote extensively for them). am a big paul simon fan like you and am inspired to listen to him (its been a while). in recent hindi music, i found the music of raincoat and hazaaron khwaishein aisi truly haunting.



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