Songs that make me tear up or choke

So our assistant principal is taking early retirement and we spent the end of the day today eating cake and listening to speeches and songs showing how much everyone at school have appreciated his presence and efforts. One of those songs was Erik Vea by Norwegian group Di Derre, a song that can make me tear up at the best of times. Watching the soon to be retiree sing it with friends and colleagues definitely did, and then he sat down and they and we sang it again, this time with rewritten personalized lyrics. I admit I couldn’t get all the words out.

I’m not usually a sentimental guy. Admittedly I once cried watching the President’s speech in Independence Day just before they go out and kick alien butt, but I’d been awake for 30 hours and I was also 21 and on a plane bound for the US to hang out with people I only knew through the internet. But when it comes to songs there are some that just hit me in the feels every time, even when I’m not sleep deprived, and on my bicycle ride home from work I wondered if overdosing on them would lead to an increasing or a decreasing effect and decided to run the experiment.

The experiment I’ve just done is seriously flawed. For instance I didn’t properly establish a baseline, but relied on anecdotal evidence in the form of my memories of previous encounters with these songs, and I hadn’t set up the criteria for rejecting the null hypothesis, or even decided on a null hypothesis, ahead of time. But what I have learned is that attempting to sing along greatly enhances the effect, something I already knew, and that in a poorly designed experiment there’s no evidence of a reduced effect.

Here’s the list of songs I did emotional battle with today:

Let It Go – from Frozen, preferably the movie version, not the record version with a different singer. (Yeah, I know the name of that singer, I just don’t want to mention it, since I never remember the name of the singer on the version I do like.)

It’s of course the whole context of this song that gets to me. How Elsa’s been emotionally imprisoned all through adolescence, but is now freed by the unintended revealing of her secret. Even just reading these lyrics affects me despite the attempt at desensitization.

Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know

American Pie – Don McLean. This one was getting to me even before I knew anything about the back story.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

And not as powerful (I can sing this one without choking most of the time) but worth an honourable mention, Weird Al Yankovic’s rewrite of this song to tell the story of Star Wars Episode I – The Saga Begins. One of the best songs Weird Al has produced from someone else’s. (He’s written some great original songs as well.)

And the Jedi I admire most
Met up with Darth Maul and now he’s toast
Well, I’m still here and he’s a ghost
I guess I’ll train this boy

Seasons in the sun by Terry Jacks appears to affect me less now than 20-25 years ago, but it was part of this experiment, and it was probably the first song that I couldn’t sing along to.

Learned of love and ABC’s,
skinned our hearts and skinned our knees.
Goodbye my friend, it’s hard to die,

And finally, one of my favourites. Listed as number 23. on this list of the 30 Top 12 string guitar songs of all time by Guitar World and described there as a sci-fi masterpiece, Queen’s ’39 is the only song I know that involves Einstein’s relativity and time dilation. Written by astrophysicist / rock superstar guitarist Brian May it’s a brilliant song, with excellent use of the 12 string guitar.

Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
All your letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand

For my life
Still ahead
Pity Me.

And if you’re now thinking, but what about the song you mentioned first, well here’s a tiny little bit about Erik Vea by Norwegian group Di Derre. A song about a speed skater aiming for a way too ambitious result in the Norwegian national championships of 1973, and how watching this attempt and inevitable failure inspired the singer.

My translation of the refrain:

Does anyone remember Erik Vea
From the championships in ’73
Is there someone who can say where he is now
Did he go home?
Did he get his lap times down?

Posted on March 19, 2015, in Favourite art. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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