Music and happiness

Leigh Turner
Leigh Turner

Music and happiness: how can you make the most of it?  Don’t be afraid to dig out those old songs, or to dance to them!  

Your all-time favourite songs?

What are your all-time favourite songs?

If you are over 25, did you first hear those songs recently or – as I suspect – did you hear them in your teen years or early ’20s?

I am intrigued that the usual lists of things that make people happy, such as family, friends, work, wealth, health, freedom, personal values, and beautiful environments, do not include music or the arts (bold italics are links to other posts on this site).

Music and happiness: a profound need

To hear music is a profound human need; the impact on your wellbeing can be sublime.

So I was fascinated when writing my recent blog How to stay sane: never take yourself too seriously, featuring the wit and wisdom of Deep Purple, to explore my old collection of singles.  What were the first I ever acquired?

My earliest musical memories

To be honest, I am not certain.  My singles were once mixed up with the larger collection of my elder brother (who I believe I remember bringing home “She Loves You” by the Beatles in 1963); and have been culled over the years, including by my giving some to my daughter for her new-fangled vinyl record player.

Leaving aside these quibbles, the oldest singles now in my collection, in reverse order of antiquity, are:

6.  Paranoid, by Black Sabbath (1970)

5.  Give it to Me, by the Troggs (1967)

4.  Snoopy vs the Red Baron, by the Royal Guardsmen (1967)

3.  What’s new Pussycat? by Tom Jones (1967)

2.  Matthew and Son, by Cat Stevens (1966)

No. 1: Bachelor Boy, by Cliff Richard (1963).

Music and happiness: thoughts

Here are three:

(i) listening to music from my early life, or indeed more recent stuff which hits the spot (step forward, Uptown Funk feat. Bruno Mars), gives me immense pleasure;

(ii) I often wonder whether the messages contained in music subconsciously influence behaviour.  For example, Bachelor Boy (the link leads to an excerpt from the film “Summer Holiday” where Cliff sings the song) appears to advocate the state of bachelorhood as desirable (“son, you are a bachelor boy, and that’s the way to stay…”).  Did this, and countless other music and movies (from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird to Casablanca) influence my attitude to relationships?  Discuss;

(iii) the digital revolution has made listening to music easier.  But is there a disconnect between the end of music “ownership“, where we bought vinyl, CDs or downloads, and our appreciation of that music?  If you subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music, and trust them to choose the next song for you from a whole world of music, does it diminish how you appreciate, or connect with, the song, compared to choosing it yourself?  So far I have resisted both services on the grounds that listening to them is like going back to the ’60s and listening to the radio – except that you have to pay for the privilege.

Some awesome music and happiness links

Researching this blog has turned up some awesome links.  I have to share:

  • Cliff Richard singing “The Young Ones” (“young ones shouldn’t be afraid… to live, love, while the flame is strong, ‘Cause we may not be the young ones very long…” – so true, so true!);
  • this alternative version of “How Summer Holiday should have ended“.

Enjoy.  And if you want to make me happy, do check out my novel Blood Summit and my Seven Hotel Stories.  Even clicking on the reviews (“Helpful”) will make me happy.  Reading the two books may make you happy, too.

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6 Responses

  1. What Ho, Robert.

    A lovely piece. It’s great to learn a little bit more about you. I agree with you — music is absolutely fundamental to happiness. But it’s more than that. Music is also a companion for the darkest moments, and a way of accessing the nostalgic past — not just recollection, but recreating feelings.

    With access to good music, I don’t actually need to be happy all the time.

    The first single I ever bought was I Love Rock and Roll’ by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (I was in primary school, and had to save up pocket money). In the mid 80s, I discovered ‘alternative music’ — I was living in a time and place where different music genres were not equally accessible, and ‘alternative’ really meant something. I was a music fanatic through to the late 1990s, but the last new artist to excite me was Jeff Buckley, and he’s been dead since 1997.

    I’m not completely out of touch, thanks to a twelve year old who assaults my senses with the tripe of the day. I guess I’m getting old, but I find the current trend in vocalists (both m. and f. of the s.) difficult to listen to. The intention, I think, is a sort of sultry and alluring breathlessness. One or two singers manage to make this sound authentic, but it’s an affectation that does not work for everyone. Often the modern young vocalist sounds like he or she is trying to sing whilst simultaneously running a half marathon and chewing steak.

    But I don’t live in a music bubble, replaying old favourites and regretting my lost youth (well, not all the time), because there’s still more than a lifetime’s worth of music to explore. As a teenager, I would never have considered listening to jazz or classical music, which has left me a world of discovery and new pleasure as an adult: Chopin on a rainy day, pumping up the volume for a Verdi chorus, or Miles Davis — anytime.

    Right now, I’m having breakfast and listening to Miles Davis Ascenseur pour l’échafaud and (in this moment, at least) life is good.

    1. Fantastic! I love Rock and Roll is one of my favourites and even features in the opening of my novel “Sex and the Summit” (not out in public at the moment for various reasons). I agree with all of this although I am a bit bubble-ish myself. Great to hear from you. RP

  2. Meine erste Single war, glaube ich ein Neujahrskonzert, also ein sehr altmodischer und konservativer Geschmack.Inzwischen höre ich alles gern was einen “beat” hat, etwas, wozu man tanzen kann, was ch auch allein zu Hause mache.

  3. Dear Robert,
    What fun to hear that someone else loved Cliff Richard’s Batchelor Boy. I first heard it in rural Australia when my big brother bought the Summer Holiday LP home from boarding school, and played it (loud!) on my mother’s old gramophone. That particular song always filled me with joy for some reason (maybe influencing my ambivalence towards the marital state perhaps?) – and we would dance around on the back veranda of the homestead. We played it over and over again. Still love it now!

    I can’t imagine a life without music. It gives me something that nothing else does, and is essential to a wordless way of connecting to other souls across the various divides: generations, centuries, cultures, and the distances both geographic and the human condition. Being able to play an instrument and improvise expands my inner world in a way that seems impervious to any negative influence. I can’t think of anything else that exists in the world that gives me that.

    I don’t get the Spotify thing at all – it’s like having someone else decorate your house, or choose your clothes.

    But – viva la difference!

    1. Thanks Lucy! Yes, I love music. For me Spotify is like having the radio on, but no one else is listening – and you’re paying for it!

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