Don’t take away the music

The Sixth Year students are nothing, if not eclectic, in their tastes in music. From a Twenty-First Century rap, one switched to playing Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees. A discussion ensued about a production of Grease that is to come to Dublin.

Stayin’ Alive came from Saturday Night Fever, which with Grease dominated pop music in the spring and summer of 1978. Being someone who liked neither, it seemed a barren time for music.

I tried to recall perceptions of music in those times. Would we have countenanced playing music from forty-four years previously? Would we even have known music from forty-four years previously? Perhaps fans of blues could have recalled artists from the 1930s, but for the average pop music listener, nothing before the late-1950s would have been thought worth a listen.

I was asked if I had heard of Stevie Nicks. I had to check we were talking about the same person before I said that Fleetwood Mac were a massive band at the time The Bee Gees were dominating the pop charts.

The conversation shifted to what song had changed someone’s life. “Random” would have not been an adequate description for the choice of songs that followed. One student suggested an entire album by The Goo Goo Dolls.

“What song changed your life, sir?” asked one girl.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “I suppose if I had to choose one song, it would be Stay Gold by First Aid Kit.”

“Never heard of them, sir.”

“No, I don’t suppose you would have done. They are a female duo from Sweden.”

The song was from 2014, but when you are eighteen years old, eight years ago can seem like a place that is in a different country. Yet when they were listening to music from the 1970s, 2014 was only yesterday. Perhaps it was simply that the song was from a genre different from those that filled the playlists on their phones.

Can songs really change someone’s life? Aren’t they more just an echo of thoughts a person has already?

There used to be a song called Last night a DJ saved my life. I have no recall of the name of the artist, nor of any of the other of the lyrics. The song title seemed to be a short story in seven words.

I assume that the song was not about any heroic deeds on the night club floor, no resuscitation of an ailing dancer, nor of an extrication from beneath fallen masonry, instead that the selection of a certain song to play brought a change of mood and an opportunity for life to go in another direction.

Perhaps music has such power, perhaps it’s more something for passing time with Sixth Year students who have just finished mock exams.

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