Music is good for the soul

By Joe Rector

Amy and I returned from Hendersonville last weekend. We’re tired of the raceway better known as I-40, so we’ve begun taking the scenic route. Through Oak Ridge and Oliver Springs takes us to Highway 27, where we cruise on down to Harriman. To avoid traveling through Rockwood, returning to the Interstate for just a few miles is necessary. During my college days, I’d travel through Rockwood and had the timing perfect to avoid stopping at any red light. At Crab Orchard, our destination took us onto Highway 70, and we never drove on the speedway again. The trip takes about 30 minutes longer, but that’s okay with us. Some of our best conversations and decisions are made during those trips, and with Sirius, we listen to the hits from the 60s.

That music is so good. I could understand the lyrics of most of the songs from that era. Yes, I know the exceptions, such as “Louie Louie.” The Kingsmen must have hit some hard stuff before cutting that record, but just the same, it became one of the most recognizable tunes from the 60s.

Many of the songs talked about broken hearts and love gone wrong. “Cry Like a Baby,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and “I’ve Been Loving You a Little Too Long” were just three tunes that told of the hurt of losing love. Just closing your eyes brings back those times when teens thought they couldn’t go on without that special person. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” had a driving beat but still told of the pain caused by an unfaithful love.

Groups like the Four Seasons, the Four Tops, and the Temptations wowed us with their harmonies and rhythms. Frankie Valli hit the high notes as he sang about Dawn, Sherry, and Marianne. He “walked like a man” and let audiences know that “big girls don’t cry.” The Four Tops’ Levi Stubbles declared, “I can’t help myself” when it came to loving his girl. He encouraged his honey to “reach out, I’ll be there.” The Temptations knocked it out of the park with “My Girl,” and they let everyone know they “weren’t too proud to beg.”

Some of the songs that were favorites were recorded by groups with just one hit. The Tokens gave us “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Iron Butterfly kicked it with “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” As a freshman in high school, I loved hearing Tommy Seaman sing, “39-21-40 Shape” by the Showmen. Yes, the measurements are a bit unproportional, but the singing is fantastic.

Yes, I am captured by music. I didn’t begin listening to songs on the radio until 1965. I was an eighth grader at Ball Camp Elementary School. Daddy died on August 31, the first day of school. Maybe that music helped me feel a bit better about the world without him. I don’t really know, but a kid of 13 can react strangely to untimely events.

All I know is that most people can’t read the names of most of these songs without smiling, moving their feet, or mouthing the lyrics. Music from the ’60s simply has that effect on folks. I didn’t mention the Beatles or Elvis or the Rolling Stones because too many other great artists had such enormous impacts on our lives. Music is good for the soul; it syncs with feelings inside. It’s a good gift from the good lord.