On a stormy night in 1995, a baby's crying can be heard. It floats through the halls and drifts under the crack of the door.
The father's eyes snap open. He stands, limbs groaning and creaking. Although he grumbles all the way, his expression softens at the sight of the baby. So small, so helpless. Such a miracle of life.
"A long, long time ago," he sings, his voice melodic and somnolent. "I can still remember how that music used to make me smile..."
He rocks the crib with gentle hands. The crying ceases. The baby falls into a deep slumber before the song is over.
"...And them good ol' boys were drinking whiskey and rye." He pauses to kiss the baby on the forehead and his voice becomes a mere whisper. "Singing, 'this'll be the day that I die...'"
I was that baby. My father and mother used to sing to me all the time, and I credit them for my love of music. Their songs left an impact on me that I'll never forget. I dip into the deepest recesses of my mind and draw these memories as inspiration for my writings. But in what ways do the melodies of my youth and today inspire?
It’s quite simply, really. Music is an art form, just like writing. And the similarities don’t end there. Both require planning and a poetic use of language and vocabulary. Like a good song, a good story has rhythm. Like the big finish of any symphony, a story has a climax. And like a true mellifluous masterpiece, a story leaves you with a satisfied feeling.
I remember Dad singing one song in particular: American Pie by Don McLean. I loved it when I was a baby and I love it still. Like a fine wine, the eight-minute, thirty-three-second aria has aged well. It still blows my mind, and I’ve heard it a collective thousand times over the years. It’s more than just a song. It’s an anthem to music lovers everywhere.
American Pie has some of the most abstract, imaginative lyrics ever written. In this respect, it’s similar to famous poetry. If you will, breathe in this excerpt:
" And in the streets, the children screamed.
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken.
The church bells all were broken.
And the three men I admire most:
The father, son and the holy ghost.
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died. "
It gives me chills. The greatest thing about this song is that it brings poetic words to an audience with no interest in poetry. By setting his epic to music, McLean made it more accessible. We can all learn from his masterful writing. Musicians, poets, novelists, journalists. Anyone with a love of writing and the craft.
Tune in next time for a list of my top five favorite songs. We'll get a peak at another McLean masterpiece and sample some Counting Crows, too. And an ode to Howard Hughes? You'll have to follow my blog to learn more.
If you've never heard American Pie, what're you waiting for?