From the archives: RIP Music

From the archives: RIP Music

There are moments of unmistakeable finality, moments when you just know it’s over. 

I’ve had a few. One that quickly comes to mind is when I sold my first house and moved away. After years of marital turbulence and a contentious divorce (is there any other kind?), after months of cleaning, tag sales, legal paperwork and preparation, the day finally arrived – with the help of a few faithful friends, the house had been emptied, the floors had been swept and I was making my last walk through to be sure nothing had been forgotten or left behind. The furniture, drapes and carpets were gone and I remember the sounds of my footsteps echoed strangely in the now empty rooms and I felt a sort of tired sadness come over me as I left the key on the countertop, walked out and locked the doors for the last time.

Today was another one of those moments.

My 14 year old lab retriever passed away a couple of weeks ago and it’s hit me very hard. I’ve spent a lot of time crying and depressed, unable to shake off the sense of loss and emptiness. I’ve done my best to expunge this house of all the things that are painful reminders, but his presence is everywhere, in everything. I can’t escape it any more than I can bring him back to life or “just let him go” as I suspect some who know me are secretly beginning to think. It’s a lot like the sense of sad finality I felt after selling my house and moving away. During the time since his passing, I’ve done a lot of introspective thinking. What’s next? I’m 62 years old and have been retired for the last three years. In all the years of my working life, I can only remember a few months when I actually enjoyed a job. The rest of the 43+ years was, at best, tolerable, at worst, misery. I don’t miss it.

In all those years, an ever-present dream has been there in one form or another. I’ve been sorting through some old files on my computer today and ran across an old video of my song “Once We Were Dreamers”. It’s been a while since I’ve heard the recording or seen the video so I played it. I’d been watching some other videos before that – old footage from the 60’s of John Lennon and the Beatles. I guess it’s put me in a wistful mood… they’re gone now – at least John and George are, and with them the collective that they once were, together with Sir Paul and Ringo. Nothing remains but old recordings and videos – electronic echoes of life from 60 years ago.

I realized today that “Dreamers” is my own swan song. At little more than 500 YouTube views it’s hardly in the same universe as Penny Lane or Strawberry Fields, but it is what it is. All my life I’ve been a dreamer, even before the time I first picked up a guitar. I remember riding on the school bus with my best friend Billy, making up a simple melody to accompany an imaginary version of Greensleeves when we were probably no more than ten or twelve years old. I remember being barely twenty-one and picking up cans and bottles with my friend and co-conspirator Ronnie from the streets of Jacksonville. We needed to collect enough deposit money to afford the all-you-can-eat salad bar for dinner at a local Pizza Hut. We’d gone there seeking our fame and fortune and had hopes of “making it”. I remember a couple of years later sitting in with Rick and Lou after meeting them at a gig at Eastover, getting to know their music and their weird sense of humor, much like my own. I remember years later my desire just to be part of a worship music ensemble and trying to hold together a collective I referred to (under my breath, most often) as “One Discord”. And, of course, I remember the last few recordings I’ve posted online recently – mostly cobbled together from bits and pieces I recorded several years back but never finished.

Vince Gill sings “it’s a young man’s town, full of young man’s dreams”. I’m no longer a young man. My dreams have morphed and changed over the years. They’ve gotten smaller. Music has gone from being all-consuming to… whatever it is I’m feeling now. I’m just tired. I miss my old dog. I miss my dreams. I miss the years that have sneaked past me while I was busy making other plans. 

There’s no music left in me. Back when I was in high school and life was still stretching out before me with such seeming great possibility, when there were “hearts still unbroken and songs yet to sing”, I kept a book of my (mostly sappy) poetry. On one page, I wrote “my life is my song; when the music stops, so shall I” and signed my name. One of my high school era poems came to mind unasked for and complete tonight, though I had long since forgotten about it:

The song is sung, the strings at rest

To passing time the halls attest

And far most brave and valiant quest

Is fading into time.

eternity lies – An open door

What crept behind now runs before

And tales of it in silence roar

And endless echoes climb.

The day is past and all is gone;

From black night rises silent dawn

Yet tolling bell rings ever on

In peals of silent chime.

This afternoon, as I watched the video and listened to the familiar words and melody of “Dreamers” I realized that music, for me, is finished. It’s time to make my last walk through, drop the keys on the countertop and lock the doors for the last time.