At so many points along the way I have felt like music was life. There is music on most of the day when I’m working. There’s music when I’m driving around. Music when I’m riding my bike or working out. Music when I go to sleep. Music in my best and worst moments.
I was a club DJ and I DJed at a college station (as well as pulling a shift or two at a rock station where I worked shortly after graduating from college). Picking a song that makes me happy, well, as with the last couple of days, the hard part is picking just one. So I thought back to a time when I wasn’t generally happy. Thanks to a personal crisis (yes, involving a woman) I endured some very dark days during the two years I spent getting my MA. I tried to think about music that lifted me out of the blackness. And a memory came to me.
I was a senior DJ and music director at Top ‘o the Town and That Place, sort of a two-clubs-in-one complex in downtown Ames, Iowa. TotT was voted best club in Ames by Iowa State students, so on Friday and Saturday nights, I was frequently spinning for the best party around. Part of the job, of course, was buying music, and one day I was at a local music store (if you’re old, you might remember music stores) with another DJ selecting some new stuff. Flipping through the new releases bin, talking back and forth with the other guy about who might like what and so on.
Then I realized that I was dancing. Not Gene Kelly/Singin’ in the Rain show dancing, but my body was moving to something that my consciousness hadn’t noticed yet. I stopped, listened closely to what the clerk was playing in-store for a second, and had no idea what the tune was. But it was energetic, rhythmic, melodic and up. I headed up to the front and asked what it was.
What it was turned out to be was Shadow Man, the new album from a South African band I hadn’t heard of, Johnny Clegg & Savuka. It was sort of like Paul Simon’s Graceland, I discovered, only 100 times better in every way imaginable.
We bought a copy for the club and I got a copy for me. And that CD has made me more happy through the years than just about any collection of music I can think of. If I’m down it picks me up. If I’m up it blows me through the roof. And always, always, it makes my body want to dance, even when it makes me cry over the tragic death of a guy I only met one time, but who turned out to be a big fan of Johnny Clegg & Savuka.
“I Call Your Name” makes me happy, and this one is dedicated to the late Bobby Lewis.