Singing on the Brain

I love to hear people sing.

Somtimes, when I’m at many desk at work, I hear a co-worker coming down the hall, and she is singing a song, or a thought, or a response to a question she’s just asked herself, or her frustration at something that just happened. She sings when she gets to work in the morning. She sings during the work day. She sings a little song when she closes her door and leaves for home at five. 

My oldest daughter, who still sings, and dances, and acts, started singing as soon as she could talk-maybe sooner. She would sing a pretty little song, complete with gestures or costumes or acting as the case might be, then stop, look up and sweetly ask her audience, “Again?”

People sing as they walk. They sing in the shower. They sing in the car, with the sunroof wide open or the ragtop down, every window open and the music blaring from car speakers or into earphones. They sing from mountaintops. They sing in valleys. They sing alone, in choruses, in ensembles, in opera choruses and in glee clubs. They sing responses to online questions. They sing into their phones, along with their televisions, to their loved ones or in front of millions of live and beamed-in viewers at the Met. 

What do they sing?

Scales. Arias. Rap. Blues. Rock and roll. Torch songs. Ballads. Gospel. Pop. Oldies. Love songs. They scream. They croon. They whisper. They speak. They parrot. They parody. They emote. They let go. They hold back.

Why do they sing? 

To tell us that the times they are A-changin’, like Dylan.

To remind us to love the one we’re with,  like Stills. 

To give us some of that old rock and roll music, like the Beach Boys.

To love us tender, love us sweet, like Elvis. 

To take us to Carolina in our mind, like J Taylor. 

To say goodbye to love, like Karen Carpenter. 

To take another little piece of our hearts, like Janis. 

To remember that the first cut is the deepest, like Sheryl.

Just to say Hello, like Adele. 

To  know that all we have to do is dream, like Glenn.


…because its just something they must, must, must do.

They thrill us, like Michael. 

Why do we listen?

To be distracted. 

To remember how to love.

To forget the pain.

To learn from our mistakes.

To feel happy. 

To relive those magic moments.

To say goodbye.

Singing,  like nothing else in this world, ushers us in, picks us up when we’re down, and gives us hope.

Singing makes us think, keeps us from thinking too much, focuses us, and distracts us. 

Singing accompanies us while we fall in love, helps us make babies, then helps us raise to those babies and, when it is time, helps us to tell them goodbye.

Singing celebrates milestones with us. It soothes us when we cry. It makes us laugh. It makes us proud. It makes us strong, as a nation, and as individuals. 

Singing takes words, notes, melodies, phrasing, and breathing, and turns all of our darkest fears, our finest ambitions, and our strongest commitments into something fearsome, something lovely, something that arches upward and spirals on the air and floats and frees and makes manifest that which we could never in a million years say on our own.

Singing makes us think about yesterday, keeps us fully in today, and never lets us stop thinking about tomorrow. 


Sing a lullaby to your sweet baby.

Sing a love song to your beloved.

Sing your patriotic allegiance to your country. 

Sing praises to your God.


A Pony Tail

I gunned the throttle, paddle-shifting my way off the two lane and onto the four lane that would take me to I-20 and then home. 

Not a hundred yards down the road, as I settled into sixth gear and the sweet hum of a new engine eager to cruise, I looked off to my left and saw a swirling cloud of brown dust, rising upwards in that haphazard way that is usually driven by man and machine rather than wind or storm. I hit sixty, set the cruise control, and waited to come over the little rise that obscured the architect of the dust devil. Then I saw her.

She was in her twenties if that, tanned and wearing jean shorts and a t-shirt, sunglasses against the early afternoon glare and a set of white earbuds trailing their thin cord down into her pocket. Her long blond hair was pulled back in a pony tail that could only be described as dancing. She sat astride a green John Deere lawn tractor that was jumping and bumping its way over a patch of what we in the Southland call a “yard”, but which is actually a wide patch of dry, red Georgia clay with little areas of green that pass for grass but are really ornamental weeds. Nothing unusual about cutting the grass on a tractor that could make a half-dozen passes on that size tract and call it done. Nothing at all. That was not what struck me.

She was singing at the top of her lungs. I mean singing, belting out some tune that made me wish I had a hundred-yard white cord running from a splitter that would let me in on what she was listening to. She yanked the wheel of the tractor this way and that, her head snapping at the end of her neck like white sheets on a clothesline on a windy spring day. I smiled, an involuntary reaction to such unbridled joy, seen visually for only a few seconds as I raced past her, but conjuring up pure emotion in my brain and in my heart. 

Maybe I was just primed for that little glimpse of happiness. Maybe I needed it, was looking for it, seeking it out on the side of the road. Maybe it just happened to be there, and nothing less.

I don’t know.

I do know this.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

If you know you only have a certain amount of time left here, make that the best time you’ve ever spent on earth.

When you get the chance to have an experience, have that experience as fully and wonderfully and intensely as you possibly can.

If you have to crank up the tractor and cut the yard in a cloud of swirling red Georgia clay on a fine spring Sunday afternoon, then put the earbuds in, fire up the music you love the best, and sing out loud with it as lustily as you can, swinging ponytail and all.

You never know, my friends, who might be driving down the highway and how much you will make them smile.


Have a good week.