Wednesday, June 12, 2013

We Can't All Be Ben Folds

Upfront, I confess I know nothing about Ben Folds himself, but I like his music—what I've heard of it anyway.

From time to time, my daughter makes a point of having me listen to a song of his, and she plays his stuff in the car pretty regularly. It's exuberant, fun, occasionally meditative—not a downer in other words. Joyful. Happy even.

Van Morrison is like that. With few exceptions, it's hard to listen to a Van Morrison song without feeling better. Not any particular lyric necessarily, or any particular song. It's something in his attitude, his disposition. There's a smile that runs through all of Morrison's songs, and it's catching. Paul Simon, too.

My impression is that Ben Folds' music does something very similar—it has a mood, a flavor, and it reminds you of goodness. People naturally gravitate to music like that, and the musician that stands behind it. We want to be like Ben Folds, to internalize his vision—to be Ben Folds perhaps.  We think, "If I could just write great songs that make people happy and do concerts and tour the country, my life would be great!" But not very many people get to hit that jackpot, and I'd imagine Ben and the others would tell you it's got plenty of downside in any case.

But there is a key to the good life in all this I think: Ben Folds' music makes us grin and tap the steering wheel and put aside our burdens for a moment because it communicates a hopefulness and a buoyancy that all of us crave. "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly," wrote Chesterton, and that angelic attitude is just what we need in these oh-so-serious times.

We need it, and we try to internalize it, but here's one more thing to keep in mind. That hopefulness and buoyancy and joy is especially accessible when you're 16 or 20, and healthy, and well fed, and open to a future of possibilities. It's a bit harder to bring it to the surface later in life, when you've got too many bills to pay, and your back hurts after a long day at work, and the car breaks down, and the mechanic says it can't be fixed.

Then, Brown Eyed Girl comes on the radio, or maybe Tupelo Honey. And you pause and listen, and you know it's all OK, despite all the junk and the noise, and that you have a lot to be grateful for, that you want to give something back. Twenty years from now, or 30, will Ben Folds' music do that for you?

I suspect it will. Assuming that's the case, bravo, Mr. Folds. And thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Ben Folds isn't always exuberant and joyful and happy. Try "Carrying Cathy."