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The Mind-blowing Power of Music

The Mind-blowing Power of Music

Being raised as a Southern Baptist meant that my music choices were: a) Christian music or b) nothing. I listened to Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) religiously. Pun very much intended.

Except for certain Broadway musical soundtracks like “Oklahoma,” and the greatest hits of Elvis Presley, CCM was all I knew. I spent so many hours and hundreds of dollars at Christian bookstores over the years to collect the hottest Christian artists.

Being all-in on Christian culture made relating to my classmates difficult. I was unable to distinguish a Green Day song from an Outkast song from a Nirvana song.

I couldn’t keep up in any conversation about music. When I did try to contribute with something like “Have you heard the latest DC Talk single?” I was laughed at. But as a good Christian kid, I believed that I was “set apart,” and social isolation came with the territory because I had God on my side!

Everything changed when I walked into a public library in my high school. I saw a CD lying on the table that someone had thought about checking out before changing their mind.

Any time I went to a library or a book store and saw a book left on a table, I had this interest in what got left behind and why. I always wanted to give that item another chance. Sometimes the first person was right, but sometimes, they overlooked a gem.

I looked at this CD on the table and noticed its colorful, cartoony cover, read the band name and thought, “Hmm ... I’ve heard of this band at some point. They’re supposed to be pretty good. I guess I’ll give it a shot. I mean, its free.”

The CD I ended up checking out was the soundtrack to the film “Yellow Submarine” by a band that I’d heard of at some point called The Beatles.

A few days later while cleaning my room, I decided to listen to something new, this mystery album from what I thought was an unknown band. I was not ready for what came out of my speakers.

“Yellow Submarine” is a playful album full of lyrics that appeal to both children and children-at-heart. Here I was hearing these goofy British voices singing songs about working together, bulldogs and whatever “Only A Northern Song” is about, with the most lush instrumentation and catchiest melodies I had ever heard.

By the end of the first song, all cleaning of my room had ceased. I sat on the edge of my bed and listened, transfixed. I remember sitting there stunned, thinking, “This is what music can be like.”

My mind was completely blown. I had never heard anything even close to as good as this. The black-and-white TV of my mind turned to color.

The world of music up until this time had been ancillary in my life, an extension of my faith. Music’s role in my life completely refocused and shifted. It became one of my greatest passions. All it took was one album, but the right album at the right time. I started devouring everything The Beatles had ever released.

At some point I thought to ask, “If The Beatles exist, how many more great artists and songs are out there?” I had 15 years of a musical void to fill! I started with the “greats,” well known groups that have an easy point of entry. I jumped from The Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel to Bob Dylan. I started listening to more and more obscure artists, always excited to hear the “next new thing.”

Now, a day isn’t complete if I don’t hear a new song that excites me from a band I’ve never heard of. This drive was sparked by that realization that I had missed out on 15 years of formative musical education.

For years I told myself I was “catching up.” In my mid-20s I realized that I had long overshot and overcompensated for my lack of musical knowledge. It was never that I just wanted to “catch up” with other people to feel less isolated, it was that The Beatles opened a part of me. It introduced me to a part of myself that I didn’t know was there, that had been waiting for the right avenue to express itself.

All it took was a ride on a yellow submarine.

This story was originally published in the Self Narrate column in the Gainesville Sun.

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