Lyrical Influences

©  Michele Lauren Hummel

Have you ever given much thought to how the lyrics of songs you listen to affect you? Sure, we have favorite happy songs, sad songs, songs of triumph, rebellion, worship, inspiration, romance, love of all kinds, anger, loneliness, longing.  Lost this, found that.  But, have you thought about how lyrics of your favorite songs might really be influencing your moods, your outlooks, your self-concepts, even your very definition of who you are?

I think we choose certain music to routinely listen to for any number of reasons, and these reasons change for as many reasons as there are instants in a day.  A medical doctor friend of mine who is also a musician once told me that music is the most powerful mood altering substance known. From my personal life experiences, I would completely agree.

We can alter moods almost instantly according to the music we listen to.This past Sunday, I was enduring the heat by sitting with the fan blowing on me while I was going through old file boxes of personal letters, cards, etc. On the radio, my companion jazz station was playing the Sunday afternoon Blues music show. I came across a bundle of letters and cards relating to a former boyfriend from a long time ago.  I started reading and remembering. I felt my energy drop. I heard the radio playing a very slow, pain-filled blues song about lost love. I paused a minute and saw what I was doing to myself, wallowing in those old cards and letters, dredging up memories about someone I couldn’t care less about today, hearing that sad, misery-filled music.  I noticed my dreary feelings, then I began to laugh as I “got it”!   First thing I did was switch the radio station to a station playing something innocuous but upbeat; this was ok for now. Then, I just took all those old letters and cards and put them in the recycling!

Recently, I was driving with a friend of mine to do a show, and on his CD player was playing “Eagles, Their Greatest Hits”.   Now, I really like the Eagles.  However, we had a Long drive, and I got to listen carefully to every song and what it was saying.  The more I listened, the more my curiosity began to work on something; I wasn’t sure what had captured my attention.  I listened especially to “Desperado”, and “Take it to the Limit”, as well as snatches of other lyrics. There was my friend’s definition of Self! I asked him about this revelation of mine, and he agreed! This is how he felt about himself; this was much of his definition of persona.  I thought more about this, and thought of one of my most favorite songs, one by Jimmy Buffet whose lyrics state, ”I’ve got a schoolboy heart, and a novelist’s eye, south sailor legs and a license to fly…” The music and lyrics make me feel happy.  Its tempo is easy upbeat rock and I feel a sense of “kindred spirit” with Buffet.  I identify with the childlike heart, being a writer, my love of sailing and flying, and further in the song is mention of having a rebellious nature. See what I mean? All of these qualities are a very big part of how I see myself, (whether truly accurate or not).

At one time, I was a staff member for a long-running highly-successful workshop called “Lifesong”, whose premise was that we could use a song we were deeply drawn to and through a series of processes over 3 days, culminating in a performance night, we would experience major breakthroughs regarding self-concept and surmounting the fears that stop us from attaining our goals. It was subtle, yet enormously effective. 

How are you seeing yourself in the lyrics you are listening to?  What is this essence of who you are?  If you listen to something reflecting how you would like to be, how do you then feel? 

Music, the most mind-altering of substances. Do not say “No”, and use it well!

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