Music is one of the great gifts of life. There is nothing like music to reach into our souls and pull out the emotion we have squashed down and wedged into a tiny corner. Sometimes it is so wedged that we don’t even know it is there. Sometimes it takes a really great song to bring it out and let it go. Music can also fill us with hope and give us solace when nothing else seems to be able to.
Below, I share with you my top favorite songs which give me strength, hope and make me feel that there are people out there who do understand what we are thinking and feeling on a daily basis, even if we are too afraid to tell anyone. Please listen to and love these songs knowing that there are great people out there who are really working to make life better for you and everyone around you.
Originally made famous by Louie Armstrong, this song carries such a beautiful message and there is no one better to sing it than the immortal Eva Cassidy. No matter how down you are, you have to admit that there is some hope left in the world when you hear this song.
Ludwig Van Beethoven was one of the most interesting artists in history.Beethoven was raised by an alcoholic father who he kicked out of the house when he was 18 to raise his brothers and sisters. He suffered all his life from disabling stomach ailments and ultimately lost his hearing, which caused him such anguish that he shunned people and lived in solitude for fear his secret deafness would be discovered.
After he died, in his belongings was found a document now called the Heilingenstad Testament , in which he details his thoughts and feelings at a crucial time in his life. In the document, he alludes to taking his own life but casts the idea aside knowing that he had too much music left in him to stop living. The document reveals a brilliant man tortured by the loss of the one sense that he needed the most and his efforts to hide it. This piece, part of a full Sonata (a piece of music written to be played rather than sung and following a specific form) is the Adagio Cantibile section, the part that is played slowly and in a singing manner. To my mind, it is the single most stunning piece of artistic mastery there is. Here it is played perfectly my Daniel Berenboim.
I don’t know why, but this song had me from the very first time I heard it. There is something about the sweeping pitch changes in the chorus that never fail to tweak my heartstrings and somehow make me feel like things are all going to work out right. It is just a great song.
Back in the 80’s, I was fortunate enough to be part of the San Francisco Bay Area original music scene. At that time, I was privileged to hang out with one of the members of Bourgeois-Tagg, who wrote the music for this song. Lyle was always a brilliant genius and went on to score major films such as “Superbad“, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and numerous others. I will always remember this song. One great evening, my band opened for Bourgeois-Tagg and I was watching from the wings when they played it. I will never forget that evening. This is one of the most perfect songs I have ever heard, and to this day people still love it.
I am sure you remember this song from “Shrek.” It is the perfect heartbreak song. This recording is done by Jon Bon Jovi. I love this version because it is simple and a song so perfect should be represented simply. Too much ornamentation distracts. It takes a great artist to recognize this fact. Jon Bon Jovi is a great artist.
You remember this song sung by Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell and later by Diana Ross and the Supremes. What greater declaration of strength and loyalty than this beautiful song?
Yes, this is the song made famous by the beautiful Whitney Houston, but it was written by Dolly Parton. Not only is this song perfectly written lyrically, the simple chorus allowed Ms. Houston to really flex her considerable vocal talents, which she did with impeccable taste. This video always brings tears to my eyes. We will always love you Whitney.
From the opera Turandot. This is the aria from the final act of this opera. The aria is sung by the character Calaf, who has fallen in love with the beautiful but, let’s face it, completely nuts Princess Turandot. The Princess, being Herman Goering in a body suit apparently, has set up three riddles for her perspective suitors to answer. If they cannot, they are beheaded; if one can, he can marry her.
Calaf has answered all three but gives the Princess one more chance by telling her that if she can discover his name by morning, she can execute him. She then decrees that no one in the kingdom shall sleep and must find the answer by morning otherwise they will all be executed. This I find a little harsh, even for opera; however, the aria itself is amazingly beautiful and tenors all over the world have chosen to take a stab at it. It is fraught with danger just like the path of Calaf, in that there are some superb high notes at the end that are sustained. One flashbulb popping or cell phone going off while singing this and you are toast as a tenor.
Ok, I know I am getting all verklempt and gushy about these songs but I am not even kidding, This one, written by Lucio Dalla in 1986, was not made famous until after his death at which point it jumped the charts to number 2.
The song is dedicated to Italian tenor Enrico Caruso and is said to describe what the composer pictured as the final scene of his life. It is achingly beautiful and when sung in Italian by Lara Fabian, it will definitely make your eyes wet.
This is a song of redemption and hope. The best version I have ever seen and heard is Renee Fleming singing it at the ceremony at the anniversary of Ground Zero in New York. Standing in front of all the people who had lost loved ones and confronting their grief was so difficult that she had to look up in an effort to hold it together. A performance like that takes so much strength and resolve. Filling an area, the scene of such horrific events, with beauty and compassion is the mark of a great artist and she will be remembered for her beauty and her grace far into future generations.
Also known as Psalm 117. This beautiful version is sung to perfection by the lovely Ceclilia Bartoli. Mozart was so gifted in writing stunningly beautiful melodies with perfect harmony to accompany them. His works are a gift to us centuries after he created them.
This is a song about sacrifice and compassion despite being treated unkindly. The lyrics are so universal. It makes you stop and look at life and the people in it.
If you are a parent, this will hit you where you live. Sniff!
A beautifully crafted song by a consummate songwriter. I only wish Vincent could be here to hear how well he was understood, if not in his own time, in times that would be his future. I think it would have given him solace. He never knew what he meant to all of us.
Ok, this may not make you cry but you will love it! The Shrews are a new group of fabulous musicians. What can I say? The songs are just catchy as hell! After all those tears, you have to get up and dance!
There are so many wonderfully inspirational songs out there. Enjoy these and then send me your picks! I might do another post!