As I drove my daughter to school this morning I was overcome by a powerful urge to hear a song. It was an old favorite from that period between the wilting of Flower Power and the rise of Punks. A time when the trend was for solo artists to bear their souls in song. Confessional rock, some people called it.
No one epitomised this style more than angel-faced Jackson Browne. And it was the title song from his 1974 album Late for the Sky that I wanted to hear.
The lyrics, like the album cover, are dreamy and speak of moving between sleep and being awake. They are infused with that ambiguous simultaneity of meaning that incorporates both the lover’s world as well as the realm of the Spirit.
How long have I been sleeping?
How long have I been drifting alone through the night?
How long have I been dreaming that I could make it right?
If I closed my eyes and tried with all my might
To be the one you need?
Some may find this sort of ‘heart-on-sleeve’ songwriting slightly uncomfortable. Even embarrassing. I kind of still dig it, but that’s not what gets me about this song.
As I listened to the familiar intro–Jackson’s deliberate piano playing; David Lindley’s hesitant but soon swirling guitar chording–I felt something move deep inside me. In a flash, I had the sense that I was in the presence of the Beyond. As the music swelled and built I felt as if I was being lifted up to that mysterious place where just a few notes can vibrate in such a way that tears come to your eyes.
It is part of my daily practice of Life to feel good. In the jargon of the New Age, I try to raise and keep my vibration high. I consciously choose to meditate, be mindful and think about things that make me feel good. As part of that practice I listen to a lot of podcasts and clips of spiritual teachers and wise people. All of this activity I categorize as ‘personal development’.
Raising my vibration, until recently was a phrase I never used. The idea that I even vibrated seemed silly. But since embarking on this path of ‘slow, perpetual rebuilding of the inner structure’, which by the way, is C.S. Lewis’ description of personal development, I’ve come to understand that not only do I vibrate, but everything around me does too. And that a huge part of vibrating at a high level equates simply to feeling good. The better you feel the higher your vibration. And the higher your vibration the closer you are to whatever it is we all long to be reconnected with: love, God, soul, Bliss, Consciousness.
Back to the music.
As I let the music take me, I, not for the first time, realised just how powerful music is as a form of worship. Or as a means to connect with that deep mysterious part of ourselves and the Universe. The way Lindley plays (starting at 3:15 – 4:01) simply transports me to a higher plane. His non-verbal singing echoes Jackson’s lyrics. Searching, longing, unsure but demanding.
As the song continued and moved towards its end I understood that this was a meditation of sorts. By just allowing the music to cover me and sink into my bones and cells I was experiencing a subtle union with something bigger than myself. And as the Almighty said after creating the world, “It is good.”
Immediately my mind jumped to a whole bunch of other songs which, whenever I hear them , transport me to a similar locale. A place that the Psalmist often refers to as ‘the presence of the Lord’.
Another all-time personal fave of mine, T.B. Burnett is a very different sort of songwriter than Jackson Browne. A man of deep musical knowledge and personal faith he rarely pens a lyric that does not have some of the gall and righteous indignation of Jeremiah.
The River of Love is a gorgeous little song from his last great album. Listen to the lap steel playing throughout but especially the section (1:21-1;50). Pure musical mercury designed to tingle you into submission.
Finally, (but not really finally, for there are thousands of equally deserving candidates to demonstrate the purpose of this post) just dig the guitar mastery of Mr. G. Benson on this piece. Alternating between rhythmic slicing and groove laden picking, if you can’t find your vibration and raise it to a high level in these three minutes, then you may need to seek professional help!