Monday, December 30, 2013

Play Me a Song Tonight

I was too busy seeing my predictions come true last night on the field in Dallas to watch the Kennedy Center Honors, but the joy of the DVR is that I could watch the part I wanted to see today: the Billy Joel part.  They saved him for the last part of the show, which makes sense since his music was most widely shared by the old and the not so old in the audience.

I was really moved to watch Billy be really moved by the performances, as he always made music that touched me.  Yeah, some folks think he is schmaltzy but then again, so am I.  While his oldest stuff is the most well known and most played, I have also really enjoyed his later stuff.  Each of his last few albums came out at a time where my mood and the songs on the album matched quite well, especially the sequence of the The Bridge to Stormfront to River of Dreams.
  • The Bridge came out while I was in college.  "Running on Ice" indeed.  "Temptation" yep.
  • Storm Front came out while I was in grad school, studying IR, so "We Didn't Start the Fire" made a whole lot of sense and became a song I used often in the first day or two of Intro to IR years later.  "Downeaster Alexa" about the decline of fishing was timely for me as I was just learning about collective action problems.  "I Go to Extremes" captured much of what I was feeling at the time--elation and frustration, joy and not so much. "Shameless"?  Yeah.
  • River of Dreams came out as I was finishing grad school and starting my first job.  And "No Man's Land" hit me right when I was working at a place that did not want me.  "Shades of Gray" spoke to me for a variety of reasons, both in terms of IR and personally.  "Lullabye" became a bit more relevant a few years later.

My first instinct upon coming home after one of my biggest career setbacks was to blast one of his songs.  Now, in my year of declaring success, The River of Dreams has been in my mind more often than not.  I just wonder what could have been--what music he might have produced in the latter Aughts when I was trying to move on.

Watching the show was a heap of fun to see Michelle Obama, Snoop Dog (or whatever), Anna Kendrick and others bop along to Billy Joel's songs as sung by the dude from Panic at the Disco, Don Henley, Garth Brooks, and Rufus Wainwright.  And, of course, it got mighty misty when the Vietnam Vets came out to sing with Brooks Goodnight Saigon, which has renewed relevance in a time of PTSD as America's latest longest war comes to some kind of end.

My fave Billy Joel song at the moment is Matter of Trust.  I hadn't seen the video of it until today, so I am so struck that it is depicted here as a song about a community (a NY one, of course).  Given the role he played in the aftermath of 9/11 and again after the storms last year, I should not be surprised that this song, which I thought was about relationships, turned to be about something else as well.  For a man so troubled in his own life, it seems strangely appropriate that his music got me through some of the more difficult parts of my life.  Thanks, Billy.

Come to think of it, this might be my favorite still:

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