Although we live in an age of seemingly perpetual conflicts where politics, religion, and endless labels divide us, it is best to pause and reflect on the very things that tethers all of us. There are certain notions which are universal and transcends borders and barriers. The hope that we have for our children, the love that all of us want to feel and to give to others, and the desire that we all have in hearts for a better tomorrow. These are the ties that bind for love is not a zero sum game where some have to lose in order for others to gain it. In honor of these better aspects of humanity, I dedicate today to music for it is the highest elevation of the human spirit.
Music is redemptive; the melodies of musicians have a way of healing our hearts through cathartic harmonies. Music is what we need at the moment we need it; there are times music is love as we listen to the likes of Whitney or Etta James to rapture ourselves with the wonders of a new found affection. There are times where music is anger as the likes of Lee Greenwood or Tilahun Gessesse mend our hearts by letting us feel the blues through sullen harmonies. There are times where music is hope where the likes of Stevie Nicks or John Lennon lift our spirits and let us know through their songs that there is a better tomorrow. Through it all, music has the ability to escape the gravity of the moment and let us feel thoughts and emotions which we otherwise struggle to express.
Music, though, does one more thing; it connects strangers and builds a foundation on which friendships are built. A while back ago, a neighbor Tim did something kind and uploaded his music library on my phone. It was a random act of kindness but a small gesture soon enough reaped a new friendship. Tim uploaded copious songs on my phone and blessed me with the bounty of endless tunes and melodies. There is no gift like music and books in my opinion for these two presents are gifts that keep giving back. To this day, the music I listen to as I write is the music that Tim gave to me out of kindness.
One day, as I was riding back from Wellington, a random song came on titled “Hold On”. I did not know who the singer was but the minute I heard the voice of the lead singer, I was hooked! The song talks about holding on to hope when we have the least of it and being blessed in spite of ourselves. “Don’t what what I’m gonna do. Must be somebody up above saying come on Brittany.” Those words rang in my eardrums and kept reverberating off my synapses. I was going through it at that moment where hope was fleeting and I was in the midst of a mind bending distress. Suddenly, in between a peddles and puddles as I was biking back home on an overcast evening, a magical voice was giving meaning to my meaningless plight. I pulled over on the side of the road and pressed repeat on this one song; this song was singing my pains into existence and I had every intention of listening to this melody on a continuous loop until I found the comforts of bed.
When I ran into Tim a few days later, I raved about my new “favorite artist”. By the way, we all do this don’t we? When it comes to music, on any given day, we have new favorites like cheetahs have spots. It’s like music transforms us back into the innocence of childhood where we get to express our emotions without seconds thoughts of recrimination over judgement. When I told Tim about the singers, Alabama Shakes, he instantly agreed that they are an amazing group. Tim then went on to tell me about them and that Alabama Shakes is a group that is as diverse and eclectic as they are talented.
The lead singer is Brittany Howard and the band consists of guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, and drummer Steve Johnson. The group rose to prominence in the early 2010s with their distinctive and soulful roots rock sound. Their story personifies the narrative of this article as Brittany and Heath formed the group in a most sublime meeting. Brittany and Heath were classmates in middle school and their connection was formed through the wonders of music. Brittany met Heath while he was playing at house parties as a young teenager and from there they established a foundation of friendship. In the same way, it was music that led to the connection between Brittany and bassist Zac as they met in college in psychology class and discussions about their favorite music soon enough led music sharing and eventual song writing sessions.
It was music that kept drawing like minded virtuoso and turning strangers into harmonious friends that would become the bedrock on which Alabama Shakes was built upon. Music was the connective glue that served as a conduit between people of diverse backgrounds that eventually gave birth to the sublime talent that is Alabama Shakes. Beats and scats became the womb from which Alabama Shakes was birthed; since Brittany first met Heath long before she was old enough to vote, music endorsed a friendship and gave us the sound that shakes from Alabama to Colorado and throughout the four corners of the world.
So this day is dedicated to music and how we are all connected through melodies and harmonies. A random conversation between friends on Facebook (one of whom inboxed me and mentioned Alabama Shakes serendipitously) followed up with a dialogue I shared with a front desk concierge named Ruth at a gym that I just joined where she mentioned both Nick Critchlow of Porcelain City and Alabama Shakes served as the basis for this article I wrote before I head in to work.
See, music is magical and sublime because it keeps binding strangers as friends and lets us know that our journey is not solitary for others share the paths we travel through the redemptive essence of music. From Brittany to the rest of us, this one thing is true, Alabama Shakes and the rest of us connect through music #AlabamaShake2UniversalConnects
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ~ Bob Marley
A shout out to my friend Sebastian Anthony Ilacqua and the music he shared with me, talent is not about fame, it’s about the gift that God has blessed us with. All of us are music. LINK
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
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