The music of my youth was more than melody and words. It was a kind of guidance into adult life, a soundtrack for thoughts and feelings that I didn’t know how to reach on my own but were given to me by the likes of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and James Taylor.
Music helped to usher my generation over the bridge, from untethered youth to the constraints of being a grown up. It’s what made the transition bearable.
Recently, my husband recorded the Hyde Park concert of Carole King performing Tapestry, one of the all-time great albums ever. As we watched it together, I was surprised that the concert moved me to tears.
Was it the music that made me nostalgic, conjuring up memories of a younger self, a wanna-be songwriter who never quite got her career off the ground?
Was it how the camera panned the crowd of thousands and thousands of people who knew every word to every song and sang along in a kind of ecstatic celebration of Tapestry’s musical masterpiece?
What got me going was when a large picture of a young Carole King appeared on the enormous screen behind her. A film of a 30-year-old Carole, singing (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman while the 74-year-old Carole harmonized with her younger self.
The old woman gazing into the face of her youth, while she sang along was a profound moment. That’s what brought me to tears – that larger than life visual metaphor.
As I grow old, I realize that I long for moments that allow me to sing along and harmonize with acknowledging the past, hoping for the future, and loving the right here, right now of being alive.
Mid-life is a time of working and focusing on goals and ambition. Most of us got lost in the identification of our work, only to discover that age had inched up on us anyway.
It confronted us with questions as to failure and success, usefulness and significance. It’s a slippery slope to contemplate those questions, lest we give ourselves the wrong answer. But here was the right answer in the form of an old Carole King singing with her younger self.
Our lives are a series of turnings; circles that we experience as seasons and years. “Look at how long I’ve lived,” this cycle implores. The past pulls on us to make peace with it, so that we can live life more fully. The present asks us to sing in harmony.
Seeing Carole King perform at age 74 was an amazing experience, one that underscored how far I’ve come – how far we’ve all come. Ms. King inspired me to be the old woman, gazing into the face of youth with appreciation in her heart and a song of love on her lips.
Though my musical tastes have changed and expanded over the years, some music will forever be etched on my soul, always compelling, still informing, wonderfully inspiring. Music, in my life, will forever be a bridge making the transitions more bearable.
Which artists are your favorite, and which ones continue to inspire you to sing along? What was the last concert you attended and what was the experience like? Please share in the comments below.
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