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Listen to the Words - The Enjoyable Grind

I really don’t think that anyone can be fully aware of exactly what is happening while they are in the middle of the event. It is only long after the event is over that we can understand what took place and what the truth and ramifications of that event were.

A movie I watched recently “The Music Never Stopped” seemed to reveal this truth to me. Although I think that my thoughts were leaning in that direction for a long time, anyway. The movie is based on Oliver Sacks’ story, The Last Hippie. It is about a father-son relationship between Henry and his son, Gabriel. Gabriel’s number one love, as was his father’s, was music.

The music created a bond between the two. But when Gabriel was in his last year of high school, the Vietnam War was in full swing, there were protests, and Gabriel’s taste for music became grounded in Rock and Roll. The music had priority over college. Father and son had a falling out, Gabriel left home and was not heard from again for 20 years. A call from hospital authorities notified Henry that Gabriel was hospitalized with a brain tumor. And he had lost his memory.

In Gabriel’s treatment, it was noted that the music helped him recover small portions of his memory. Reluctant at first, Henry was determined to reconnect with his son, even if it meant listening to Rock and Roll and even attending a Grateful Dead Concert. As they sat together at Gabriel’s treatment facility, listening to Rock and Roll, Gabriel stated many times, “Listen to the words.”

My kids have always liked Rock and Roll. And even though I never tried to keep them from listening to it, I never cared for it myself. They remember many of the words to the songs. And I get tremendous enjoyment when we all get together and they start singing some of the songs.

After watching the movie, I decided to just listen to Rock music on television and listen to the words. In the midst of the songs, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen played. It was this song that started me thinking about not fully understanding what was happening until much later. Many months ago, my kids were watching this song video. I thought it was a catchy tune and began to ask questions about the members. They told me that Freddie Mercury was dead. As I listened to the words, I was saddened not only by the line “Mama, I don’t want to die,” but the entire song. It was of despair.

I remember the Vietnam War. My youngest brother served there. I remember the protests, the Hippies, the Rock and Roll music. I remember thinking, why don’t they grow up? Why don’t they get haircuts and shave? Why can’t they be patriotic Americans?

I’m not sure I fully understood what was happening then. I wasn’t aware of their concerns for their classmates and friends who were going off to Vietnam and never returning. Maybe they were experiencing the fear of going and never returning themselves. Maybe in their despair, it was easy to fall out of society and begin to live the hippie live, letting go of any cares of the world. A world that they seem to have no say or control in. In my old age, I am beginning to see and fully understand. I have come to understand that when an author writes a story, or when a songwriter writes a song, their words always tell a story. And I have found that it is much easier to understand their story if I just Listen to the Words.

Dwayne Collins

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