Today is another ominous, rainswept day and I turn once more to music to lift my mood. Yesterday my good friend Nicky Wells posted the lyrics and translation of possibly one of the saddest (though most beautiful) songs in the world, which didn’t help. So I turned to more revolutionary songs that meant a lot to me in my youth, like Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’. But that was depressing too, so what to do?
Confession time: I was never an avid follower of fashion in either clothes, music or literature. Especially with music, I just liked what I liked, usually becoming obsessive about a certain artist or band, following every single release and snippet of news about them. Some of my choices were kind of obvious for the time (Madonna, Duran Duran), others were more unusual or considered old-fashioned (David Bowie, Queen, Dire Straits). But one constant pattern in my life (which only really becomes obvious with the gift of hindsight) is my love for rebellious songs. Perhaps it’s the legacy of growing up in a Communist dictatorship, but I’ve always had a soft spot for songs that protest against the established order of things, that are critical of an unjust society, whether that society is democratic and capitalist (Bruce Springsteen) or more obviously in the grips of dictatorship (Mikis Theodorakis).
So here are two of my favourite songs, with very suggestive lyrics. And, despite the serious subject matter, the music somehow manages to uplift rather than dampen me!
First, the classic Supertramp song that almost anyone can hum along to: ‘The Logical Song’. And these are the lyrics that get to me every single time:
But then they sent me away
To teach me how to be sensible
Logical, responsible, practical
And then they showed me a world
Where I could be so dependable
Clinical, intellectual, cynical
Secondly, a rather less well-known song ‘Superbacana’ by the great Brazilian singer, composer and political activist Caetano Veloso. He was briefly imprisoned by the military dictatorship in Brazil and had to go into exile in the late 1960s. I was unable to find a video of Caetano singing this, but here is an audio snippet:
My knowledge of Portuguese is very rudimentary, so my translation is probably not very accurate, but to me the song seems to be mocking the rhetoric of the absolutist Brazilian government of the time, promising ‘supersonic aircraft, electronic (high-tech) parks, atomic power, economic progress’, everything super-duper in fact, while contrasting it with the actual poverty of the vast majority of the population, who have ‘nothing in your pocket or your hands’.
Why do these songs cheer me up a little on such a gloomy day? [By the way, you may think I am harping overly much on the fact that it is raining, but I have been known to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so it really is all in my mind!] Because they express anger in a humorous way. I find anger a more productive sentiment than sadness and despair, because it usually makes you want to do something to change matters. And when anger is tinged with humour, it no longer is simply destructive, but becomes instructive and constructive.
What do you think of these songs? Are you a fan of songs with ‘political’ messages? Or does that create an obstacle in your appreciation of a song? And what about songs in different languages, where you might not understand the subtext or even the outright meaning at all? Can you still enjoy a song, even if you think it’s about something completely different?