Words are Just Words Until They Hit Home but Isn’t that the Idea?

A person would almost have to be living in some remote cave not to have picked up on the recent controversies surrounding words that defame, hurt, or cut like a knife.  First, it was an international star that made the international news scene, followed by a world class comedian, and then a very popular disc jockey, talk show host.  All of whom have apologized and all of which have lost some of the adoration and love of their fan base.

Words have such power and when they are combined with music they can and many times do communicate deeply within our very being, sometimes resonating long after the song is over in our minds.  Who hasn’t been told by a friend or work colleague that they are humming or lightly singing some refrain from a tune that is stuck in their head – and it doesn’t even have to be something from your recent past, either.  The Beatles sang, “all we need is love” and Alice Cooper told us that “only women bleed” and we learned about “another brick in the wall” by Pink Floyd.  These were social commentaries presented through music that music lovers picked up on and repeated over and over again.  Words have such power.

Music by itself has such tremendous powers of its own and here the word “power” could never be over-emphasized when describing its inherent abilities.  But yet, when combined with language, with words, the power, the brute force, even the lightest massage is magnified, and there indeed can be found the magnified rub.  Years ago the national PBS icon, Bill Moyers, produced a startling documentary entitled, “Amazing Grace.” The song has been around since John Newton penned it after he was almost killed at sea during a dreaded storm.  John Newton was a slave trader and he was so emotionally moved by this “amazing grace” that he penned his words which forever hits the hearts and minds of listeners worldwide.  But central to our point, Bill Moyers interviewed all kinds of musicians and singers, each whose delivery of the words were done somewhat differently than the others.  The words were the same, with the exception of some possible paraphrasing here and there, but the point that Mr. Moyers wanted to convey was that it was the collaboration of the tune and the words and the artists that continually breath new life into this tune over the ages.  Its music is redefined for specific audiences, but yet everybody who listens to that tune is motivated to some degree.  When it comes to music by itself, how could anyone not appreciate Carlos Santana’s rendition of “Europa” or Kenny G’s riffs, or the music of soul artists like Isaac Hayes?  Music is not contemporary; it is timeless.  Who was the first rock star, Wolfgang Mozart perhaps, the youthful prodigy that dared to please audiences with fresh, new, untraditional tunes that got him into such huge trouble with the establishment?  Wofie got into trouble because music has power, power to move the masses, to excite them, to sadden them, to motivate them. He frightened the political establishment of his day because when music is combined with words, lyrics, it has an exacting power and he knew it.

But even having all of the remarkable power mentioned above, should any song exact its power in such a way that it hurts, offends, or incites individuals to harm themselves or others?  Weigh in, tell us what you think, your two cents can make a difference….

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