Remember Love Potion Number 9? If you’re a baby boomer, you do. For those who are ready to click off in confusion, it’s a song, a hit record by The Searchers from 1964. Remember the famous line when the music stopped and singer sang, “I held my nose, I closed my eyes, I took a drink”? After which he says, “I didn’t know if it was day or night. I started kissing everything in sight.” When he kissed a cop at 34th and Vine, the cop broke his little bottle of Love Potion No. 9. They don’t write ‘em like that anymore.
Check it out here on YouTube. The guy up front is not really playing that guitar, is he? If he is, he has a pretty weird picking style. But he’s having fun.
That song came out a long time ago. I was 12. Many of you were not even born. Yet yesterday at our South Beach open mic/jam session, when our leader Renae started playing it, we all knew all the words. In a minute, we knew all the chords, too: Am, Dm, C, D, E7. That goofy song brought us together in ways that very few other things do. And that led me to a revelation, one of those God knocking on my head moments.
I’ve been struggling with a bad case of the “why bothers” lately with my writing. Why struggle over poems and essays that I send to literary magazines and mostly get rejected. Even when I get something accepted, the readership is so small, and nobody I know reads those publications, so why bother? I’m sending out my novel, and nobody’s buying it, so why bother? I’ve written a ton of songs, but I don’t exactly have a record deal, so why bother?
Here’s why. Because when people know your work and share it, magic happens. When my words touch just one person’s heart, magic happens. When people sing together, magic happens.
Music has a special power. Think of all the good old singalongs that everybody knows. “Down by the Riverside.” “Amazing Grace.” The Jeremiah was a Bullfrog version of “Joy to the World.” “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” “You are My Sunshine.” Somebody wrote those songs, and somebody shared them. And it was worth the bother.
One of our local high school teachers brought some of his special ed students to perform as a band at yesterday’s open mic. Most are developmentally disabled, some severely. But they ran up front with their tambourines and shakers and sang Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It wasn’t on pitch, and the words were slurred, but they were so full of joy, the rest didn’t matter.
Other singers paid tribute to the late Merle Haggard and the late David Bowie by singing their songs. The writers are gone, but their songs remain. We will sing them forever. Even if we get dementia and forget everything else, we will remember the songs because music lives in a different part of our brains. It matters.
So, write your writing and sing your songs and don’t worry about the rest. If you’re not a writer or singer, that’s okay. Do what you do. It matters.
Next time, maybe we’ll sing “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” Man, we had good songs back in the 60s.