Songs That Changed My Life: Dondante - My Morning Jacket
There is a good reason to put this song first. It certainly wasn't the first song that changed my life, but my life was the most changed by it. I first heard this song sitting on my roommate's computer in our second apartment. I was taking a study break to indulge in some new music. It was midday in the spring time, and I was sitting at his desk looking out his window to our fire escape. The sun was setting on a beautiful, temperate, perfect day which I had spoiled all day inside studying. My roommate was gone and I was all alone. I had found this band years prior, while at a party my old bass player threw at his apartment. He had a mix-DVD of bands playing at random festivals around the country, and My Morning Jacket was one of the last bands on the disc. That was in the days before Youtube. I remembered liking the song and the band though I didn't remember the name of the song, so I decided to find them online and see what they were up to. This song however was a single from their latest album, albeit a somewhat odd duck at first. I sat in my roommate's computer chair and listened to this song on repeat for the rest of the evening. When he got home it was the first thing I said to him, "You have to listen to this". The rest is history because this is his favorite band now. It was the best song I had heard in year's. Incredibly poignant. I remember not knowing what the song was about at first, yet weeping silently with every listen. To me, it was the perfect melding of melody, music, and lyric. I didn't really want to know what the song was about or what the original songwriter had wanted it to mean. I didn't even want to look up the lyrics. I felt like I already knew. I didn't want to have my perception informed by somebody else's interpretation of the work either. It was only years after I watched the VH1 storyteller episode on this song that my suspicion about this song's meaning was confirmed. Suicide. This song stopped me dead in my tracks and forced me to look at the road of my life. Almost in Lewis fashion, it was like I had been hiking up the steep cliff for some alien planet for years, not looking back on my darker days when I first crash landed on it's shore, coming out. I heard this song and it made me look back on that. It said to me "Remember that? You haven't thought about that in such a long time…" I was very depressed throughout high school and the beginning of college. I took a breath. I looked down on the monsters that seemed miles away now, standing on the beach not even noticing that I had left. And I was glad. I wept for myself. I wept for the narrator. I wept for similar people who hadn't got out of the waves. I wept for the ones in the water now. I wept for the ones about to get in the space ship.
From a music standpoint, this song is perfect. The rhythm beats like a heart, constant and eerily looming over the vocal. The guitar in the beginning sounds like it's coming out of some sad person's bedroom two floors up. The vocal sounds like it's being sung under a streetlight on a foggy night in 19th century London. The guitar grows teeth in the solo and completely destroys. At first you feel helpless. Then you feel the unfairness of it all. You pray for an end. Then you get angry and hateful and spew your ugliness on everyone and everything around you (not to say this solo is ugly, but the dissonant double stops in the 2nd part of the solo tear like an acidic bone saw at me in a good way). Then you get even at yourself. Then you decide you can't exist in this world. The sax which comes in at the end of the guitar solo makes me think the body is starting to get cold, and the now free soul is looking down remorsefully on that body, hoping it gets found soon for the sentimentality of it all. To me, this song was incredibly dark, but not in a way that made me dark, or made me feel like getting dark. In some way, it lifted me up!
This song made me realize how far I'd come. I wanted to honor this transition and change the way I would write songs. I was tired of writing sad songs. I wanted to write happy songs that people could dance and enjoy themselves to! I wanted my art to represent this acme of personal emotional health. I wasn't 'that guy' anymore, my art certainly did not have to be. It's kinda funny when you think about it: An incredible sad song about one of the singer's best friends committing suicide changes the way a young songwriter chooses to write his own song.
Depression is a prison.
In a dream, I saw you walk' Like a kid alive and talkin', that was you In the classroom, you were teachin' On the streets you were policin' that was you
To the one I now know most I will tell them of your ghost like a thing that never, ever was
And all that ever mattered Will some day turn back to batter like a joke Behind thin walls, you hid your feelings Takes four legs to make a ceilin' like a thing
In a dream I saw you walkin' With your friends alive and talkin', that was you Well I saw it in your movements And even though you never knew it, well I knew
Just how sweet it could be If you'd never left these streets
You had me worried, so worried that this would last You had me worried, so worried that this would last But now I'm learning, learning that this will pass But now I'm learning, learning that this will pass
-lyrics by My Morning Jacket