The funny thing about optimism is that even though its something I whole heartedly believe in, it can vanish the minute the waters get rocky. Like it’s incredibly easy for me to preach, “Don’t worry. This too shall pass” to other people but practicing in my own life? That’s another story. I’m sort of on-paper, in theory kind of optimist but will flip-flop back to pessimist land in the blink of an eye. You know, kind of like the friend of your’s from college who went vegan but still ate chicken sandwiches when no one was around. So knowing this about myself as I do now, I sort of have to work overtime to keep optimism and faith alive.
Staying out my pre-programmed Irish thinking of “This world’s going to hell in a handbasket!” can be accomplished if I do things that make me feel good. I was once told that I could slowly achieve self-esteem if I practiced estimable acts. Once someone explained to me what estimable acts actually were (by the way gossiping and buying cocaine did not make the list. Go figure.), I’ve been able to live by this. Mainly, it boils down to thinking of others. If I’m wrapped up in my own garbage, my day is usually garbage. But if I’m busy doing things that make me feel good like helping my fellow-man, my day usually gets better. Sometimes, Its texting somebody I know is having a rough time. Sometimes, its making coffee for a meeting. Sometimes its letting my husband sleep in. And in a pinch, holding the door open for somebody or picking up some thrash can be lifesavers too.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that after a few weeks where I honestly felt crappy and felt like things weren’t ever going to get better, they have. This is largely in part because I kept doing stuff that helped others and myself. Even when it drove me nuts. On this Sunday evening, I am actually optimistic. I’m working on some great projects. My relationships are good. I have some fun events this summer. The amazing thing about being sober is that I have seen my life and other people’s lives change. I beleive that my life is only getting more incredible as the days pass, even if I can’t see exactly it at the time. The song is right– anything could happen. And more than that, I think it already is happening.
“Nobody can tell ya there’s only one song worth singing.”
-Make Your Own Kind of Music
Had she survived a massive heart attack in 1974, “Mama” Cass Elliot would have been 71 years-old today. In a short but rich career, Elliot recorded no other song that better described her individuality and “screw ’em if they don’t like you” attitude better than “Make Your Own Kind of Music”. Recorded in 1969 as a followup to her hit, “It’s getting better”, the tune didn’t really make much of an impact at the time and only reached #36 on the Top 40. Elliot struggled to stay relevant as she departed The Mamas and the Papas and as the 60’s were becoming the 70’s. Nevertheless, this curious little pop tune has endured. Barbara Streisand, Bobby Sherman and others have recorded the track but it’s Cass’ version that survives. She really sells the songs corny but sincere message and elevates the track to classic status. Upbeat, catchy and unabashedly optimistic, “Make Your Own Kind of Music” is own of those songs I picture playing during the opening credits of the sitcom based on my life. Anybody else? No? Just me? Okay. Moving right along…
Fans of the show Lost will undoubtedly remember Desmond playing the song on a record player during the season 2 opener entitled, “Man of Science, Man of Faith.” “Make Your Own Kind of Music” shows up in several other episodes and even had a surge on iTunes, thanks to Lost.
According most biographies of Cass Elliot, she struggled with truly loving who she was and suffered a lot of emotional and physical pain due to her struggle with her weight. It’s a shame she never got to really believe the message of personal acceptance that she inspired in her fans. So on this slow-moving Wednesday where there isn’t enough coffee to get me going, I’m going to try to take the song’s message to heart. I have a few “what if they hate it” or “what if I fail” creative projects that I’m going to jump head first into today. Also, it’s important as a creative person to keep going and trust the process so I’m going to try to help others do that today too. Finally, I have to remember to do things in my own voice and not care if “nobody else sings along.”
Happy Birthday Mama Cass and Happy Wednesday, friends!
What the world needs now,
Is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.
Over the weekend, we lost a great lyricist when Hal David passed away at 91 years-old. As the sometimes thankless task of being the guy who supplies the words can be, David was often forgotten. His writing partner Burt Bacharach and their musical muse Dionne Warwick often grabbed more headlines than David did. But without David those catchy lyrics to some of the best pop songs on the planet would not exist. As I read his obituary and tributes in different publications, it blew my mind how many hits David wrote. Some, like Brokenhearted Melody, are tunes he crafted before his partnership with Bacharach. The song is a showstopper for Sarah Vaughn and I dare you to erase it from your memory after listening to it:
David’s lyrical genius can also be found in mega hits like the Oscar- winning Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, Walk on By, The Look of Love, and one of my all time favorite songs, I Say a Little Prayer for You.
Naturally, everybody has their favorites and the list is endless. David and Bacharach’s hit making machine attracted the biggest names of time and their collaborations with goddess Dusty Springfield are utter genius.
What inspires me today, on this Tuesday after a long weekend, about David’s lyrics is the optimism that permeates in every song. Even the sad ballads give the listener a sense that everything will eventually work out. Sure, these sentiments might seem corny by today’s standards but as I look at the tragedy, cynicism and intolerance in today’s headlines, I think David might have been onto something. Love is still the only thing that there’s just too little of.