Sunday, April 22, 2012

We love what we don't understand.

I picked up my bag, I went looking for a place to hide;
When I saw Carmen and the Devil walking side by side.
I said, "Hey, Carmen, come on, let's go downtown."
She said, "I gotta go, but my friend can stick around."

Take a load off Annie, take a load for free;
Take a load off Annie, and you put the load right on me.

Levon Helm died on Thursday.  It prompted a lot of airplay for "The Weight," one of The Band's most popular songs.  One DJ said that hearing the song makes him cry.  I have heard the song a number of times and frankly, never had that reaction.  Mostly because I never knew what it was about.

I found the lyrics online and read through them and I still don't know what it's about.  That got me to thinking.
Tons of people love that song [pun] and if you asked them, I'd bet that either they don't know all the words or, if they do, they couldn't put their finger on exactly what the song means.  While it appears to be a tune about some conflict between the Devil and the narrator, it's unclear exactly what the conflict is, what caused it and how it is ever resolved.
Suppose you went to a movie, and after seeing it a friend asked you to explain it.   If you could not, what would your impression be of the movie?  You would leave the theater disappointed and either think that you weren't smart enough to know what was going on or be angry that you spent $12 to be confused.

Millions of people love music that, if you asked them, they would have no idea of the song's meaning or sometimes, its lyrics.  There is something about music that makes it appealing to us even though we have no idea of the topic.

Take The Kinks' "Lola" for instance.  It's a song about a transsexual.  But, if you brought the topic up in conversation, you'd be the most controversial person in the room.  Yet, we walk around humming the song to ourselves.
Even Ronald Reagan didn't know that Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." was a sarcastic smack in the face.  He read the title and thought, "Wow, what a great song."  But he had Alzheimer's, so maybe that's a bad example.

The point is (and there is one) that music does indeed have charms, even if we don't know what those charms mean.  We love music even though, often, the lyrics are incomprehensible or just plain nonsense.

I'll be the roundabout.
The words will make you out and out.
I'll spend the day your way.
Call it morning driving through the sound and in and out the valley.
In and around the lake,
Mountains come out of the sky.
They stand there.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here, dig a great one whose words you (probably) don't understand, but would you care that the translated title would be "That proneness towards laziness":