Do you ever listen to music by the Doobie Brothers?
One song says, “Don’t you feel it growing day by day. People getting ready for the news. Some are happy, some are sad; Oh, we have to let the music play.”
The lyrics go on: “What the people need is a way to make ‘em smile, it ain’t so hard to do if you know how. Gotta get a message, get it on through.”
I guess you could take the song several ways. The writer, Tom Johnston, wrote the song while he was in college. Here is what he said in a 2014 interview: “It was right in the middle of the Vietnam War. I had this idea imagining all the world’s leaders from various countries got together on some green grassy place where the sun was shining and music was playing. They’d mellow out and stop all the (expletive) and say, ‘look let’s get together. If we help each other out, we’d get a lot more done than the way we are going about this.’”
Just as in all art we often see things differently depending on our perspective, political bend or life experience. I think the words of the song are relevant today in several ways.
Permit me to share a few thoughts.
Whether you are happy about national or local news or not, some will be happy and some will be sad. But a central message of the song is we are more alike than different — no matter who you are, what you think, or how you perceive current events. You are the same as your neighbor, whether you like your neighbor or not.
So maybe the Doobie Brothers’ songwriter and band member has the right idea. We should look at helping each other out. We’d certainly get a lot more done. Don’t you think? I know I do.
I think another meaning in the song, at least for me, is music makes people happy. Music brings up emotions of all sorts. Think about The Star-Spangled Banner. Does it bring up emotions of pride for your country when it is played or sung?
For me it does.
My point is music can motivate you, it can inspire you, and it can mellow you out. It can take you away for a little bit as you listen to the songs that feed your soul.
Perhaps we should pause and listen to the music if for no other reason than because we like to.
Do you have a favorite song you listen to over and over? I know you do. I have lots.
My mom used to sing as she worked, sometimes rather loudly. I remember being embarrassed as a child because she would sing when friends were over. She had a good voice, but sometimes my friends would ask, “why does your mom sing all the time?”
I would just shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know, I guess it makes her happy.”
That usually satisfied them, and we’d go back to playing Army or whatever we were doing (but playing Army was our favorite by the way). I wonder what that says about me? I try not to analyze myself, but it happens.
As I got older, I grew to appreciate that my mom sang, because it really did make her happy. It made her happy and provided her comfort. She’d always sing hymns by the way. After my father passed away in 2017, my mom’s singing intensified. She missed him. I understood why, because I did too. My mom passed away in 2019, but she taught me to “listen to the music. Because what the people need is a way to make them smile.”
And my mom smiled really big when she sang. So put on that favorite song with noise canceling headphones so nothing distracts you.
Because what we all need is a way and a reason to smile. Take the Doobie Brothers’ advice and just “listen to the music.” You will be glad you did.
Richard Stride is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.