Music and the Soul
“Then Sings My Soul”... Religious or not, the idea of the soul is represented a lot in the music of all genres throughout many generations of people. Jewel asks, “who will save your soul,” It could be said that the Red Hot Chili Peppers link mental health to the soul when they say, “Insanity it seems…Has got me by my soul to squeeze”. Tracy Chapman sings with all of her soul regardless of the song or the lyrics, but in “All that you have is your soul,” she specifically speaks about the soul as the one thing we should never give away.
Not only is there an entire genre of music named “soul music,” but I imagine that there are hundreds of songs that reference the soul, even if they use a different word for it, and I would put money on the fact that all of those artists don’t share the same religious beliefs. So, what is it about music that so many people see as it being tied to the soul?
Coming of Age & Discovering the Music that Touches Your Soul
There is this time in your life when you start to discover music for yourself. Just like religion, politics, and other worldviews, most people are aligned with their parents until they come into their own and develop their own tastes and views. As for me, I had a few different musical influences in my life before I broke out on my own at 12 years old and decided that Green Day and Weezer were the best bands ever. Trust me, I have evolved from that, but they are both great bands that complement the teenage angst of a 12-year-old trying to rebel against what her family does as she paves her own path.
That isn’t to say that those musicians aren’t still in my music collection, and I play them to take me back to that time. The time of my life when I was angry and exhilarated all at the same time. The time of my life when I was insecure, but also confident enough when listening to the Gin Blossoms sing “Allison Road” I took it as a true sign that I was something special. Barely a teenager, trying to find the words to explain what I was feeling through the lyrics I found outside of my parent’s “preset” radio stations.
The Music of My Mother
As I grew up, my mother and her husband Hank were very much into country music, and that was what I listened to. Even then, I found songs in their selection of music that created an emotional connection. You could say, “songs that touched my soul.” The clearest example of this would be “The River” and “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks. I can sing the lyrics today, and they still touch my soul in a profound and beautiful way.
This isn’t to say that I never heard any other music growing up with my mother. Her music tastes would adapt depending on who she was dating or married to at the time. I don’t mean that in a bad way, other people have a tremendous impact on the music all of us listen to. Country music was simply what she and Hank were pretty tied to when I hit that period of my life when I wanted to find my own musical journey. As much as I would love to blame the middle school that I went to for forcing us to learn line-dancing to songs like “Achy Breaky Heart” as the reason I rebelled against the music of my parents, it was really just that time in my life when I needed something that expressed how I felt. Music that represented my soul.
A Pinball Wizard, Moonshadow, & the Music of Dad Number Two
My mother was married three times. She and my dad divorced when I was two years old, and I do not have any memory of them being married. Oddly enough, she married her 2nd husband, Joey, when I was two years old, and meeting him is my first memory. Joey was really the dad during my formative years, but in 3rd grade, divorce struck again.
Their marriage resulted in two children. A little brother and sister that grew up with my older brother, Kevin, and me at my mom's. When you think about those formative years of a child, you can see how I loved Joey as a dad, and I loved his parents as my grandparents. I didn’t really understand how Kevin and I were any different to them than my little brother and sister. Luckily, in their hearts, we were still their family after the divorce. While Kevin and I didn’t spend as much time with them as my younger siblings, we did see them at least once a week (most of the time).
Joey had an extremely well-rounded taste in music. We would listen to so many different genres and songs and all sing along in the car. “Pinball Wizard” by The Who, and “Moonshadow” by Cat Stevens are the ones that I remember the most. I even named my black cat “Moonshadow” after that song and created my own lyrics to accompany the chorus as a lullaby when I had my own baby.
Music sticks with you. People talk about “smell” being the sense that we have that can draw memories more than any other. To me, when I hear a certain song, that is what brings memories back more than anything else. I am not a scientist, but I do have music in my heart and soul, and certain songs do take me back to my past.
The Playlist of My Soul is a Mix-Tape
I love the fun fact that “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor was the number one hit single the day I was born. I call it “the anthem of my life.” The playlist of my soul covers so many different genres. When people ask me what type of music I like, I usually respond with something like “80’s rock ballads”. Yes, I am a child of the 80s and love those throwbacks, but there is not really a simple way to truly explain what genre speaks to my soul because it is a mix of so many different things.
The really important thing is to point out that music DOES speak to my soul, sometimes, music speaks FOR my soul. We wouldn’t still read poetry from a hundred years ago, or watch plays written by Shakespeare if there wasn’t something to the fact that poets, like musicians, are able to create something that speaks more to our soul than any words we could ever put together for ourselves. Even as I write this, it feels as if I am trying to explain a sunset to someone who has never had the gift of sight.
When I am happy, there are songs for the occasion. When I am sad, there are other songs that get put on repeat. There are so many songs that create so many different emotions in me that I can’t even put them into words. But, that is the point, isn’t it? There aren’t words to explain how music is tied to my soul, and that is exactly why we need music.
About the Author:
Allison Frye, Mental Health Advocate & host of the Allison in Wonderland Podcast, has spent the last 15 years dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention. The “Allison in Wonderland” mental health podcast discusses all areas of mental health and gives everyone a place to talk about their own journey.