Three songs

Write about the three most important songs in your life—what do they mean to you?

“More Than a Feeling” (Boston)

Maybe not quite the music of Generation X—it was a little early for that. And even after listening to it a million times, the lyrics mean nothing to me. Sitting here writing this, I don’t even remember them, although if I played it, I would be able to sing along nearly perfectly. It isn’t the lyrics I love, but the music. There’s the bit just before the chorus starts—I love it, I’ve always loved it, but how do I describe it in words? And it’s that bit that’s made it one of my favorite songs ever.

“Wouldn’t It Be Good?” (Nik Kershaw)

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song so full of self-pity, and when I was in high school, this was perfect for my bouts of “nobody understands me.” Thirty years later, I still use it for emotional comfort, although it’s a bit different now. The narrator is so over-the-top with feeling sorry for himself that no matter how low I feel when I start listening, by the end of the song I’m smiling, if not actually laughing.

St Paul’s Suite (Gustav Holst)

Once upon a time in the other life I had as a high school student—yeah, I seem to have found all my important music back in high school—I played the viola. In our orchestra, anyway, that meant performing St. Paul’s Suite at least twice that I remember. Oddly, I still like it as an adult, which is hardly true of any other music I played in high school. Well, except for Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Cello and bass players probably all hate that one, because of how boring it is for them, but if you play violin or viola, you get the melody. And violin players are probably used to getting the melody, but that’s kind of unusual for violas, so I relished it. In St. Paul’s Suite, there’s a viola solo, which absolutely terrified me, but I managed to like the piece anyway (except when we performed it in public). But at least I could find recordings of Pachelbel’s Canon. Holst is more famous for The Planets, and for years, that was all I could find. Maybe professional orchestras don’t want to bother with pieces suitable for high school students, but I really wanted to hear it performed by people who knew what they were doing. I did eventually track down a recording, and now you can find it just by typing the name into Google—oh, the miracles of the modern world.

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