Tag Archives: music

The Greatest Song Ever Written

What is the greatest song ever written?

That’s a discussion that has gone on for decades, if not centuries, and will continue to go on for an eternity. Radio stations have Top 100 song marathons on holiday weekends. Websites abound categorizing music fan’s varied choices. Music pundits are always available to share their expert opinions based on sales and stats and song rankings and weeks stuck atop the music charts.

Well, I’m here to set the record straight.  The greatest song is not Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. It’s not Don Maclean’s American Pie. It’s not a song by the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or Nirvana or Elvis Presley or Woody Guthrie. It’s not even a song by my all time favorite musician, Jackson Browne, whose music has had a more profound effect on my life than any other. It’s not a song written during the 20th or 21st centuries when what we all know as traditional Rock and Roll music became the backdrop to our every living moments.

The greatest song ever… well, it’s not really a “song” per se. Let’s see, what’s the proper word… it’s a Piece, it’s a Movement. In fact, it’s the 10th movement of the cantata Herz und Mund Tat und Leben, BWV 147.

Huh?

Don’t worry, if you don’t recognize the formal name, you’ve heard it, believe me. I don’t have scientifically garnered evidence of this but I’d venture to guess that no piece of music has been covered by as many musicians, arranged more often into so many distinct versions, played by so many different musical instruments. It’s been performed on church organs, pianos, and classical guitars. It’s been performed by full symphonic orchestras and small chamber groups. It’s been performed with vocals and without. It’s been played on kids xylophones and recorders and toy pianos. Check out youtube… there are classical versions, pop versions, heavy metal versions. There’s even a guy who plays it by rubbing his hands over a table full of water filled wine glasses! Very cool!

Here’s a particularly stunning rendition of it in my opinion. Although not originally written for guitar, I find classical guitar versions the most powerful and moving. Take a listen.

Yes… you’ve heard it.

I grew up playing the cello. I started in fifth grade and stopped when I graduated from High School. I took personal lessons and played in the school orchestra. I participated in contests and festivals.  I got pretty good at it, although not as good as I could have been if I had really put the effort in. When I went away to college the music department wanted me to continue playing but I was tired of it. I wanted to drink and chase girls and screw around… oh, and of course, study. These days I realize that I will always regret not continuing but it was one of those decisions that you make as a teenager that sounds right at the time. Although I still own the instrument, these days I can barely bang out Mary Had a Little Lamb.

What it taught me though, was a love… okay, maybe love is too strong a word… how about a deep respect for classical music. Colby College, where my wife Kim and I went to school, offers what is called a Jan Plan, a month-long class you can take during January when the school is mostly closed down and most of the students have gone home. One year Kim and I took a Chamber Music class taught by a four piece, string chamber group, who would basically sit in the front of the lecture hall and play for us, while teaching us the musical structure and history of chamber music.  It was one of the few classes in college where I somehow managed to pull off an A grade.  But Kim and I would walk to class together and walk back to the dorms together. We would eat together in the cafeterias. We would sit through the class in the mornings and when it was over, the days were free with no other classes or homework to be concerned about. It was a part of me that I was able to share with the girl I was falling in love with and although many of the details are lost to my aging memory, it was a month that I will remember always.

I still listen to classical music occasionally. It’s very soothing and grounding to me. I often like to have it playing in the background if I am working at home or washing dishes or writing. It puts me into a place and a frame of mind that is very difficult to obtain in this hectic and stressful world we live in. When it comes to composers, Johann Sebastian Bach was the fucking rock star of his day, in my opinion the greatest to ever compose music. In a very simplistic viewpoint, without over analyzing every note, his melodies are happier and more upbeat than any other composer, less dissonant and grating than many of his counterparts. I won’t claim to be an expert on any of this but I know what sounds good to me.

And his greatest piece of music… Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

Now don’t go thinking I’ve gone all religious and spiritual on y’all. I have not! But if there is a piece of music that can put someone, even a hell-bound, heathen like me… in a spiritual place, this is it! I don’t really consider it a wedding song, like I consider the classic Pachelbel Canon which was played at my wedding, although I understand it has become a wedding staple.  I don’t really consider it a Christmas song either, although it gets a lot of play time in its many versions during the holidays.

For me it’s a piece of music that transcends all of that. If you’re happy it can make you happier. If you’re sad it can make you sadder. It makes me cry… yes… cry, pretty much every time I hear it. I can’t help it… I’m listening to it as I type this… can you see the tears falling on my keyboard? It’s the one melody that I think, if I had to hear over and over for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t tire of hearing. It’s a melody that reminds me of my Mom who is no longer with us. It’s the background music to a life of love and friendship and family and happiness and sadness. It’s classical music that has become mainstream and will stand the test of time longer than any other piece of music. And in my opinion, it’s the greatest song ever written.

It turns out the underlying melody that has become so recognizable to the world was not written by Bach himself, but by composer and violinist Johann Schop. I never knew that until reading some Wikipedia notes. That’s okay, just like today’s musicians who don’t write all their own songs, if it’s your face on the album cover, you get all the credit.

Even 300+ years later!

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Fall in Love Again

One of my blogging friends, Robyn at Love vs. Goliath wrote this post the other day about investing in her relationship with her husband.  These two (and her kids) tell an amazing love story about being reunited after a long immigration battle. I’d encourage you to visit the site and poke around, it’s very interesting and uplifting.

Her post reminded me that it is so important to make time for your spouse or partner, to find time away from kids and jobs and all the stressful and time-consuming things that envelope our lives, and find ways to rekindle those incredible feelings that people feel when they first start falling in love. My wife preaches this to me sometimes, and while I have to admit she is pretty good at it, frankly, me being a guy and all… I am not always very good at it.

Reading Robyn’s post hit home for me and I sat down and wrote a little song. I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions, but perhaps this year I’ll try to make more time for my relationship with my amazing wife.

You can listen to the song on Grooveshark here:  Fall in Love Again

and here are the words:

Baby, let’s fall in love again.
Head over heels in love again.
It’s much too easy just being in love with you.
I want to fall in love again.

Baby, let’s fall in love again.
Head over heels in love again.
It’s not enough just being in love with you.
I want to fall in love again.

Let’s climb to the roof and stare at the sky and watch shooting stars go by.
Let’s jump in the car and go for a drive with nowhere to go in mind.
Let’s lie in the sand, grab hold of my hand and know that the world is right.
Baby, let’s feel that way again.

Baby, let’s fall in love again.
Head over heels in love again.
It’s much too easy just being in love with you.
I want to fall in love again.

I’m looking forward to reading what you all have to say this year. Wishing you a happy, healthy 2012!

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS from the folks at BROWN ROAD CHRONICLES.  I asked my family to get together with me and make a little Christmas carol video. This is what we came up with… yes, there’s a few bloopers included! Please take a few minutes and watch the whole thing. I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed filming it… yes, we laughed A LOT!  To all of you subscribers and readers, THANK YOU SO MUCH for your loyal support and more importantly YOUR FRIENDSHIP! It is valued more than you understand.  I hope you have a wonderful and magical day with your family and friends.  Wishing you the Merriest Christmas and a  Joyous, Healthy and Happy New Year!!

Steve

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The Snow Globe

A man once lived in a globe made of glass.
It sat on a base made of shiny new brass.
Inside of this globe seemed to always be snowing.
Snowing and sleeting and drifting and blowing.

He had a small house with some trees and a yard.
A family of four with a pet St. Bernard.
At the edge of the globe, a little old train.
Would circle the town, he couldn’t complain.

He loved when it snowed, he believed it a blessing.
The big fluffy flakes were so very refreshing.
Music would play when the snow would come down.
That came from the church in the center of town.

And in the town square on those cold snowy nights.
Was a large Christmas tree all covered in lights.
T’was peaceful and calm with the square all aglow.
With the tree’s lighted branches covered in snow.

See this globe, it sat on a little girl’s shelf.
On a wall that she’d decorated all by herself.
There were posters and pictures and photos and things.
Knickknacks and tchotchkes and dolls made of strings.

But her favorite of all was the globe full of snow.
She would wind up the winder to make the train go.
And in the town square she’d watch all the people.
While the music would play, like bells from a steeple.

She would shake it all up so the snow’d start to fall.
Then set it back down on the shelf on her wall.
She’d watch while the snow fell all over the town.
She’d watch ‘til the very last flake hit the ground.

She would make it snow five times or ten times a day.
Or whenever she wanted to hear church bells play.
And the man would be proud as his little town glowed.
He’d smile at the girl as she watched while it snowed.

Now this girl, she grew older, as little girls do.
Her tastes, they were changing to things that were new.
She began to show less and less interest in toys.
Instead she was focused on clothes and on boys.

Then one day the man, well he waited and waited.
He waited all day and he sure felt deflated.
Because the girl never came to shake up the snow.
The girl never came to make the train go.

The lights didn’t light and no music was played.
With the town all in silence the man was dismayed.
He walked to the square in the center of town.
Just to find it all empty, no one around.

So the very next day, well he waited again.
He waited outside until quarter past ten.
And he waited some more as he held back his tears.
While weeks turned to months and months turned to years.

Now with nobody making it snow everyday.
The globe it got dusty, covered in gray.
He figured the girl would never come back.
The dust on the glass became grayer, then black.

The snow, it stopped falling for many a year.
That music he knew he would no longer hear.
And that train that would circle his town now and then.
Was stopped in its tracks right where it had been.

Then one Christmas morning, the man felt a small rumble.
He heard very faintly a female voice mumble.
And he watched as the glass was wiped away clean.
He watched as the globe regained its old sheen.

Then he peered out the glass and who did he see?
T’was the girl, all grown up, with a boy about three.
She picked up the globe and the winder she wound.
The music, it played and the train drove around.

She shook the globe hard and the snow began snowing.
The sleet began sleeting and the wind began blowing.
And the townspeople quickly ran to the town square.
Where the tree with its lights was still standing there.

The girl turned to her son and she said with a smile.
“Here’s a present for you to keep for a while.”
“If you wind up this winder you’ll start the train going”
“The music will play and the snow will start snowing.”

She handed it over and the little boy smiled.
She said “it used to be mine when I was a child.”
When the boy took the globe, his eyes lit up with glee.
Like the center of town, lit up by the tree.

When the boy shook the globe it snowed harder than ever.
And the man, well he hoped it would go on forever.
Because although it was cold, he knew as a whole.
A snow storm on Christmas always cleanses the soul.

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