Saturday, March 3, 2012

Instant Tears and Harry Chapin

Actors have a technique to bring on tears; they remember something that instantly makes them incredibly sad. I know what that thing is for me: it's recalling specific people who have died when they were much too young.

Extra tears leak out for sudden deaths. That's even worse, I know, but it has something to do with how my emotions are wired.

It's not dead children or teens that make my eyes leak the fastest, but midlife adults who've seen a lot but not the lives of their children as adults, or who didn't get a chance to enjoy retirement and grandchildren. And this isn't a recent thing, as you might assume. The first time I realized it, I was not yet 21.

One example is Harry Chapin, the singer-songwriter who died in 1981, age 38, after a car crash on the Long Island Expressway. I was 22 at the time, and a long-time fan. I was sharing a house with a woman from Long Island who was friends with his daughter, so I'm sure that added to my reaction.

I recently added a bunch of songs I hadn't heard in years to my iTunes list, and one of them is "Circle" by Chapin.

All my life's a circle, sunrise and sundown
The moon rolls through the nighttime
Till the daybreak comes around.
All my life's a circle
But I can't tell you why
The seasons spinning 'round again
The years keep rolling by.
Hearing it was enough to turn on the faucets. It's a live recording, and he sounds so full of life and fun, pulling in the band's cellist and even the roadies to sing part of it.

And then there's the second verse:
It seems like I've been here before
I can't remember when
And I've got this funny feeling
That we'll all be together again.
There's no straight lines make up my life
And all my roads have bends
There's no clear-cut beginnings
And so far no clear ends.
I know it's not great poetry, but there's something about the way the words interact with the music, the fact that I learned it when I was young, and that he died so suddenly, leaving so much and so many behind, that make it poignant for me.

No comments: