Sunday, January 29, 2012

Songs that make me cry (or at least start to tear up)

Sometimes, when I listen to songs from the deep depths of my childhood, tears start to come. These aren't moving arias. These aren't symphonic miracles. These don't have mind-blowing powerchords. These are - I must admit - almost all folk songs. Many of them written generations ago and now seem to be almost nothing more than distant memory for an aging generation. However, perhaps because I was the very youngest of all my cousins - born 12 years after my youngest cousin on my father's side and 6 years after my youngest cousin on my mother's side (but about 25 years after my oldest cousins on both sides) - I have inherited an "old ear". I certainly wasn't surrounded by classmates who sang these songs (so I have only my parents to "blame").

Too, due to my mixed heritage, these songs are both Japanese folk songs as well as American folk songs. It is, unfortunately, sometimes difficult to find songs that move me so much partly because I don't remember all the folk songs of my childhood. However, these are a few that tug greatly on my heartstrings:

"Aka tombou"

... and a different singing of it by the same artist (sung for Cyndi Lauper):

The second one really do cut right to the quick. The haunting aspect to the timbre really connects with something very deep-seated in me. Also, the style of singing is just so foreign in this world of pop hits and heavy rhythms. It all harkens back to a time that I never knew, but could imagine with as much longing as the words of the song - and the voices of the singers - convey.

I know that there are other Japanese folk songs that would evoke a similar reaction. However, these fall (unfortunately) in the category of not being able to remember the names of the songs that I heard when I was so very young. Perhaps, on a cassette somewhere in a box somewhere in my parents' home that has similar songs. However, I also remember growing up with this - somewhat famous even in the US - song:

"Ue wo muite arukou" (上を向いて歩こう) a.k.a. "Sukiyaki Song"

This one, though, only makes me sad when I start to sing along... However - moving over to US folk songs - this one is like "Aka tombou" above, jerking tears from my eyes with little problem:

"My Grandfather's Clock"

I also really get moved by "Old Man River". Especially Lawrence Beamen's 2009 audition version for America's Got Talent

Thanks to the cassette tapes that my parents had when I was growing up, I also got to learn the songs of Harry Belafonte. And while I like the songs that perhaps most people know - "Banana Boat Song," and "Jump in the Line" - one of the songs that I heard was "Island in the Sun":

It spoke to me - a child who was born on Guam (an island in the sun) who moved away from it so young. The feelings that would fill me every time that I listened to this song when I was in adolescence - when we were visiting Guam on occasion - I would have fleeting memories of the warm sun, the gritty sand, and the sounds of the waves and it taught me very early about the word "nostalgia."

Another one of Harry Belafonte's songs from that cassette tape of my parents' was "Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma":

I didn't even know the meaning of the words, and it wasn't until I listened to it recently - after I learned a decent amount of Spanish - that I could understand the lyrics. Still, the emotion poured into the words... moved me even as a child.

And my mom really liked the songs of John Denver, too. I must have listened to all the songs - famous and obscure - that he released during his career. One of my favorites - perhaps what piqued my interest in biology and science - was "Calypso"

True, "Rocky Mountain High" also lifts me (yeah, yeah), but nothing like this song. Strange, though, that it wasn't until MUCH later that I learned that the song was an homage to Jacques Cousteau and the name of his boat: Calypso. (Hell, I ended up going into marine biology at St. Andrews without ever having - knowingly - seen anything from Jacques Cousteau, heresy though that may seem.)

Then there are some songs that are - to me - just haunting in their rendition:
"Skye Boat Song"

and "Pokarekare Ana"

Okay, okay, I grew to like some Scottish folk songs - Scotland the Brave, Flower o' Scotland, Loch Lomond, etc. - a nod to the time that I spent in Scotland. (And a late toast to Burns Night, just 4 nights ago.) However, they weren't songs that I heard when I was growing up, so I won't include them here (also because this list is getting rather lengthy).

Therefore, I'll end with one more; a song that doesn't really fit in with the above. It's not "haunting"; it's not Japanese nor is it American; it's not from any single singer that my parents listened to. However, it's stuck in my mind as one of the songs of my childhood; one that can - at times - make me start to tear up a little bit: "Cielito Lindo":

Although this one was made by the Banamex bank, I really like its multi-regionality. It's strange that I remember hearing this song growing up, since it is one of the very few Mexican songs that my mother actually knew and had (and liked). Again, like "Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma," I had no idea of the meaning of the words before I listened to it again after learning Spanish.

Okay... I've got to stop now. It's getting too emotional for me. So, here's one to lighten the mood and go in completely the other direction:
"Birdhouse in your soul"

(Thanks to my brother to introducing me to this song.)

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