Fear is the lock, and laughter the key


Flying blue bird, by cat2owl

Fear is the lock / And laughter the key to your heart

How beautiful is that?  And how applicable to the artist’s journey.  To any journey, actually.  I’m thinking I may write this one down and post in a place where I’ll see it regularly.

Those lines have been playing through my head since last night, when I watched The Music Never Stopped, a fascinating movie about a guy with a brain tumor who can’t form new memories — except when he’s listening to the music he grew up with in the ’60s.  It’s based on “The Last Hippie,” an essay by Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and writer famous for his books about (among other things) memory and music.

Though I came of age in the ’90s, the music of the ’60s was a big part of my emotional teenage landscape; I imagined myself a hippie born 30 years late.  So in a way, one of the movie’s points — that hearing beloved music can immediately place you back in that memory of when you first heard it — felt particularly vivid to me as I watched the movie and grooved to its soundtrack full of Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills & Nash: all those songs that I know and love with an intensity that newer music doesn’t usually inspire in me.  (It felt even more that way to Erin, who went on tour with the Grateful Dead as a teenager!)

Not surprisingly, music from the movie has been playing through my head all day:  Sugar Magnolia, Uncle John’s Band, Touch of Gray. But though it only played for a few seconds, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes – Stephen Stills’ long and lovely tribute to Judy Collins – has stuck with me the most.  When I first heard it as a teenager, I loved it immediately.  All those fantastic harmonies that make it so hard to sing solo, the eastern-inspired guitar and percussion, the wonderfully poetic lyrics, the pure joy at the end.  How can a song about an imminent breakup create such a joyful response?

No matter.  I keep hearing those two lines from the first section of the suite:

Fear is the lock,
And laughter the key to your heart.

If you haven’t heard the song in a while, here it is.  Enjoy!

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