Monday, April 20, 2009

Lady Sings the Blues

I just turned in the first draft of my prospectus, so I have a bit of a breather until tomorrow when my work gets ripped into and I return to stress-ball state. In the meantime, I've been listening to music over YouTube and finally got my hands on some amazing music that I lost when my computer crashed a year or so ago.

One of the best things about going through a break up (not that going through one is particularly enjoyable in any way), is that, in your stronger moments, you can re-discover aspects of your pre-relationship life that got somewhat muted during the relationship. Of course, the trick is not to lose those parts of you, in the first place, (something I need to be more deliberate about the next time around). In any case, my moments of "re-discovery" have all circulated around music and books - music for memories, and books for inspiration. In the first week, I listened to the one swing album I own: Colin Jones and the Big Little Band. It got it my very semester at Oberlin, when I took swing classes. Besides the music itself, which is fun, it has a lot of sweet, untainted memories attached to it - the kinds of memories that come few and far between, but are essential for sustenance, in a break-up. I hadn't listened to that CD in forever, maybe not since my sophomore year, but listening to it again a few months ago gave me a sense of very simple happiness.

This morning though, as I was winding up the draft of my prospectus, I was browsing YouTube for music to play in the background. And I came to a playlist titled "Lady Sings the Blues." It has many of the songs from the album of the same name - one that I fell in love with the first time I heard it (I'm referring to the two volume compilation, not the Billie Holiday album). I don't remember how long ago that was, but the CD belonged to my uncle who I was visiting in London. I remember playing that CD every morning after he and my aunt left for work, just lounging around on their sofa, day-dreaming. I even downloaded it onto my laptop, but I lost all my music last year because of a harddrive crash).

I definitely hadn't forgotten about this CD... there are a handful of songs from it that have graced my YouTube playlist for a while now. But finding almost the entire set today was pretty amazing. Like I said, I've always really enjoyed the compilation, and so listening to it again brought back some really calming memories. I must've been going through some kind of intense period in my life back when I first heard the CD, because listening to the songs on it always makes me feel somehow stronger, more hopeful; it makes me believe in myself again, in who I am and what I am capable of... again, a feeling that is so crucial, but often so hard to come by, when going through a rough patch. But I guess, subconsciously, the songs remind me that I've encountered hard times before, and that I've survived them pretty ok.

Listening to the songs today, they really spoke to me, to so many of the feelings I am currently experiencing. It did make me wonder though why they had resonated with me so much before. Was I somehow already anticipating this moment then? Or is that, in some way, this moment is no different from others I've experienced, that it has just taken on a different form? And either way, I'm not sure what this says about me - is it that I am a cynic? Or a (tragic) romantic? Or that I subconsciously fantasize about personal difficulties because they help me realize my strength? I'm not really sure... but in any case, it was pretty fascinating. It might just be, too, that for me these songs conjure up the image, the feel, of it means to be a "woman" - a perfect combination of tenderness, ferocity, sensuality, wisdom, survival.

Here are some of my absolutely favorite songs from the compilations... admittedly not the "bluest." I really like pretty much all of them, so it's kind of hard picking just a few. But these are the songs that never go old, that I never tire of.

Julie London - Cry Me River (I remember loving this song as a child. I think my dad had it on LP, unless it's a totally made-up memory.)

Dinah Washington - Call Me Irresponsible

Gladys Knight - Midnight Train to Georgia

Aretha Franklin - Today I Sing the Blues

Etta James - Sugar on the Floor
(OK... this one's not the Etta James song on the album. But it's one of my top two favorite Etta James songs. She was such a revelation for me my sophomore year... so wonderfully amazing!)

Dorothy Moore - Misty Blue (I almost want to say this is my favorite song ever... I'm pretty sure it's on the CD too, although the playlist below doesn't indicate that. Whatever, it's beautiful!!! UPDATE: It's a shame that this video cuts the song off so abruptly. But I really like the video itself too... Anyway, full audio can be found here.)

And finally, just for fun: Diana Ross - Touch Me in the Morning

Here's the playlist from the compilation. I don't think this is the exact CD my uncle had... perhaps the UK version is slightly different? I don't know... or I could just be wrong.

Disc: 1
1. Key Largo - Sarah Vaughan

2. Solitude - Ella Fitzgerald
3. Embraceable You - Dianne Reeves
4. Don't Go to Strangers - Etta James
5. Call Me - Della Reese
6. I'm Just a Lucky So and So - Diana Krall
7. Call Me Irresponsible - Dinah Washington
8. Something Cool - June Christy
9. You Go to My Head - Keely Smith
10. Very Thought of You - Nancy Wilson
11. My Funny Valentine - Dinah Shore
12. It Had to Be You - Kay Starr
13. One for My Baby (And One More for the Road) - Rosemary Clooney
14. I'll Be Seeing You - Peggy Lee
Disc: 2
1. In A Sentimental Mood - Dianne Reeves

2. Here's That Rainy Day - Peggy Lee
3. Stormy Weather - Sarah Vaughan
4. In a Sentimental Mood - Dianne Reeves
5. They Can't Take That Away from Me - Diana Krall
6. Body and Soul - Etta James
7. Some Day My Prince Will Come - Cassandra Wilson
8. More Than This - Norah Jones
9. Thrill Is Gone - Patricia Barber
10. You're Changed - Nancy Wilson
11. Cry Me a River - Julie London
12. Don't Explain - June Christy
13. Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be?) - Rosemary Clooney
14. I Wish You Love - Keely Smith
15. We'll Be Together Again - Lena Horne

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