• Jay Jacobson

Sad Songs

Someone approached me at a coffee shop (while I was writing some lyrics), asking if I was a songwriter. After the usual questions about what type of music I write and sing (which I always have trouble answering), this person said they used to write songs. I asked why they stopped, and their answer was that they were writing at a time when they were full of angst and didn’t want to “put that out into the world”.

It seems as I struggle to put myself and my art “out there in the world”, I run into people who have trouble with what they consider negative or painful thoughts. This is the second time someone said this EXACT same thing to me (I refer to the first time in the blog titled “Lonely Boy Short Film” from July 18, 2006). The first time, it was a friend, who after hearing 4 songs, thought my songs were depressing. He emphatically criticized the song “No”, and its title in particular, for being negative. I tried to explain that the song “No” is the opposite of negative It is in fact victorious! It is about standing up for one’s self and saying “NO – I’m not going to change” in the face of a world that keeps telling you you are not right the way you are. He still thought it was sad and negative. I asked what he thought was wrong with sad songs – after all, there is even a genre known as “The Blues”! He stated he didn’t like “The Blues”, and asked me several times, “Is that what you want to put out into the world?”.

I still find that question puzzling. I understand not wanting to put hatred or violence out there (or any messages that put down specific groups of people – women, gay people, different religions or nationalities, etc….), but I find it fascinating that many people feel angst or sorrow is negative. I understand not WANTING to feel those types of feelings, but when they are present, there is nothing “wrong” with feeling pain (other than the awful discomfort of the hurt). Even some of the most “enlightened” people I know have felt that way as well. I can remember a few years ago, shortly after my mother died, a close friend asked how I was doing. I responded that I was having a hard time. He immediately asked how I could turn the situation around to empower myself. I can understand that, and do believe we create our life experience – so why not create a positive experience. At the same time, life can be painful and that is the way it is sometimes. I was grieving and needed to experience the grief to get through it. He had a very hard time allowing me to experience the pain I was experiencing. But to try to avoid it, ignore it, diminish it’s existence, turn it into something else, and pretend it isn’t there, seems to me like a denial. And from what I’ve observed of denial, whatever you are denying, stays with you until you acknowledge and accept it. I realize we humans have an aversion to pain. Who WANTS to feel that?!! But pain is there. It is something we all feel. It is part of the human condition. If we didn’t have pain, we wouldn’t know we had joy.

I strongly believe a sad song can help people feel feelings they have inside and can’t express. Feelings that need to get out. I’ve experienced it myself with music. There are times – especially growing up – where I was full of sorrow, and would play a sad song which truly made me feel better. Perhaps it gave a voice to my sorrow? There is something about a sad song that touches emotions deep inside. Emotions that don’t get expressed. I guess emotions some people don’t want to feel. If all we had were happy, “positive” songs, I think music would get boring pretty fast. And it wouldn’t be a true reflection of the human experience – which I think art and music at its best is!

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