There I was, in my backyard, minding my own business, tying up my tomato plants with twine, when I was blindsided. A Prairie Home Companion was on the radio; it was a compilation show, and one segment was someone, I forget who, singing Randy Newman's "When She Loved Me" (also often called "When Somebody Loved Me").
I sort of collapsed to my knees, and made my way over to my plastic lawn chair and listened to the rest of the song, sobbing. (Technically not a dangling participle, but yeah, I know.)
I don't know much about anything, but I know a lot about music. I'm even a self-acknowledged music snob, for better or worse. So believe me when I say that "When She Loved Me" is 3 minutes of beautifully, perfectly crafted art song genius. And I think it's high time we put Randy up there in the American art song legions of Ned Rorem, Hugo Weisgall and David Noon. (Full disclosure: I studied with all 3, and Noon is a good friend, and would easily concur.)
I'll try to steer clear of cliche-ville, but obviously as we get older we hear and see things through the prisms of our losses. When I listened and cried, little mini-movies of my mom and dad flashed passed me at an unmanageable pace, and I was overwhelmed, I guess. And it haunted me all night and through much of today. My whole body aches with it.
Sorry about the cheesy video, but the audio is better than the Toy Story 2 clip, which, by the way, I find to be 3 of the saddest minutes in movie history.
Most people live their lives unaware of the power of music to elate us with joy and paralyze us with grief. Hope may have been a dangerous thing in Shawshank (note Randy's brother, Thomas), but, right now, it's all I have. Which is to say, unless I can somehow convince myself that my best days are not behind me, and then back it up with some some actual proof and deeds, then all that's left for me is pain, sorrow and ruin. I have bad days and worse days, and when I come out of those funks, I hope I'm a little stronger and, yes, a little less hopeful-less. (Not a word.)