Friday, February 28, 2014

The Sound of Music

This week marked the passing of Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest known Holocaust survivor. Earlier this week, at the age of 110, Alice passed away quietly in London, surrounded by family. As her world crashed around her, she watched friends and family, one by one, be taken away, most forever. She loved music and played concertos on her piano until the day they finally came for her and her son, Stephan, age six. But the music didn't end.

They were taken to Theresienstadt, one of the few concentration camps that held a glimmer of hope for its occupants. Since it was on the world’s radar, visited by the Red Cross and featured in propaganda films, the prisoners were allowed freedoms and liberties not known by most victims of Nazi Germany. Here in this camp, prisoners like Alice were allowed to participate in the arts. She continued to play the piano, her music enjoyed by fellow prisoners and guards alike. Theresienstadt saw its share of atrocity, though. Of the 140,000 Jews sent to this camp, over 30,000 did not leave. But Alice did. And her eight-year-old son, Stephan. But the music continued.

At 98, Alice watched another loved one leave. Stephan died in 2001. And Alice played the piano and lived another 13 years. On that day, along with Alice, her music died. 

Alice’s love of music got me thinking about my own. So, today, I share with you my Top Ten Favorite Songs of All Time. This list could change tomorrow. Or later today. But, for now, this is it.

10. Metallica “Enter Sandman”
When James Hetfield hits those immediately-recognizable introductory chords, you can’t stop the beginning nod of a good head banging session.

9. Garth Brooks “That Summer”
Call him a sellout. Call him goofy. But the man can tell a story with a song and this is a great story.

8.  Prince “Little Red Corvette”

7. Three Dog Night “Mama Told Me Not to Come”
Sage advice in the form of a toe-tapper.

6.  Run-DMC “Sucker M.C.’s”

5. John Lennon “Imagine”
Some Christian’s raise their hackles at the line “Imagine there’s no Heaven,” but you’re missing the point if you do. Lennon’s charge to live peacefully is delivered in a pretty melody and it was my Mother’s favorite song. So there.

4. Kenny Rogers “The Gambler”
Garth may have learned a thing or two about telling a story from this guy. I love so many Kenny songs, but this one gives you words to literally live by. And I have.

3.  Aerosmith “Walk This Way”
When Steven Tyler teamed up with Run-DMC, it was pure magic and showed me that, musically, I could have my cake and eat it, too. Why does a song have to be “rap” or “rock?” Why not both? Pure genius.

2. Dr. Dre & Snoop Doggy Dogg “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang”
Dre introduced a barely-known Snoop on this track and it was a good thang.

1. Simon & Garfunkel “The Sound of Silence”

To say the first time I watched The Graduate was an educational experience is an understatement. It’s a great movie and seemingly timeless. Although the fashion has changed and come back in and changed again, the emotions expressed and felt by the characters is so identifiable. The Sound of Silence” closes out the film. Dustin Hoffman is on his way to stop the wedding when his Alfa Romeo dies on the side of the road. Then he runs the rest of the way to the church, screams “Elaine!!!!”, fights off people with a cross, and they jump on a bus. While catching their breath and reeling from what they just did and pondering “what next,” those familiar chords begin to play, along with Simon’s opening words:  Hello, darkness, my old friend/I’ve come to talk with you again.” Perfection.