5 Songs That Make Me Stop What I’m Doing

by Linus

Music is amazing for so many reasons; it can make us smile when we are sad, it can help us communicate when we don’t know what we want to say, it can even transport us back in time.  I listen to music whenever I can, I even used to listen to it when I would study or write papers in college.  I could not possibly narrow down all the songs I like into just one favorite, but I was able to narrow it down to 5 songs that make me stop almost whatever I am doing at that time to listen to them…in no particular order:

1: Bob Seger – Turn the Page (Live Version)
This was probably the first song that really ‘spoke’ to me.  As long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with this tune, I can even remember back to a time when I would actually shush people (even girlfriends) when we would be in the car and this song would come on.  The first car I ever bought was a 1996 Pontiac Grand AM GT with tinted windows; I put a pair of 10″ JL Audio subwoofers in the trunk that took the appreciation for this song to a whole new level.  The beauty of this tune is that there’s not one particular thing about it that that attracted me to it.  It opens with that classic winding saxophone and from there it’s not music, but the words that keep me going.
The song is about a musician and his time on the road and when I hear the lyrics, it can’t help but conjure up an image of a lonely man riding from gig to gig in his tour bus, stopping occasionally and interacting with the locals.  Listening to it, you get the sense of someone who has been away for far too long.  He sings of his time on stage, as he pours his heart out to the crowd, only to get back on the bus to do it in another city the following night.  It’s a slightly less glamorous side to rock ‘n roll that most of us forget about.  This song is over 40 years old but it is essentially timeless, it could have very easily been written last year.

You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_N0yuMuB98

2: Carl Orff – O Fortuna (Carmina Burana)
I first heard this song about fifteen years ago, and it was a techno version that was aired on an alternative radio station.  When I stumbled on the classical, more traditional version, I was hooked.  Originally, this was a poem that was put to music in the mid-thirties by German composer Carl Orff.  This is sung entirely in Latin, so part of the allure for me is that I can’t understand what is being said.  When sung by a choir, it has a very bold beginning that quickly turns into a whisper.  The crescendo slowly builds to an eruption, after which we hear a giant drum followed by a powerful ending that consists of drums, horns, and voices.  In my opinion, it is the most powerful ending that exists to any song.  The only drawback for me is that the entire song is only just over 2 minutes long.

You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNWpZ-Y_KvU

3: Pink Floyd – The Great Gig in the Sky
This could be quite possibly the most beautiful piece of music that exists in the world today.  I say that with the caveat that I am a huge Pink Floyd fan, believing that most of what they put out was pure musical genius…but this is on an entirely different level.  The back story is that most of the album (Dark Side of the Moon) was already in place, but the band wanted a little more music and so keyboardist Richard Wright laid down the first couple of lines of what would become this song and the guys were sold.  They were pretty confident they wanted an instrumental but one of the producers suggested bringing in a vocalist to lay down some vocals.  They invited in a fairly well known singer at the time, Clare Torry, and while they knew what they wanted, they simply instructed her to think of death and horror…and to just go in and sing.  She completed the task relatively quickly and as she was coming out, she actually began to apologize and say that she was embarrassed at what she had just sung.  The band looked at her in disbelief because they knew that what they had just heard was absolutely incredible.
I have heard many different live recordings of this song as it has been sung at many Pink Floyd concerts over the years, and with one exception (and even that was a distant second), not one of the female vocalists could come close to replicating what Clare did that day in the studio.  The song actually opens up with dialogue that was recorded in an English pub, the dialogue says:

I am not frightened of dying
Any time will do, I don’t mind
Why should I be frightened of dying
There’s no reason for it
You gotta go sometime

What follows is 3 and 1/2 minutes of what reminds me both of someone who could be experiencing extreme pleasure, or extreme pain.  It is the mystery of it that lets the listener take the song where they would like to go with it.  This song is more than able to stand up on its own, but when you place it in the middle of Dark Side of the Moon, what you get is almost beyond words.

You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqCEPytSFqU&feature=fvst

4: Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke – Sacrifice
I only recently discovered this song, thanks mainly to the fact that it has recently appeared in a few movies.  I was drawn to it while watching the movie, but it was after I watched the video, and also after I listened to it on its own that the power and beauty really became clear to me.  The allure is again in the fact that I don’t understand that language, I find myself getting lost in the simplicity of a solitary woman and how she is able to take me somewhere simply with the power of her voice.  The song does not have many highs or lows, and the somberness of the music is present throughout.  It is definitely more on the sad/reflective side…but we need that every now and then.  The title really prepares you for what you will hear.  It puts you in a certain frame of mind, and it made me think not only of family that is no longer here, but where they might be.

You tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6DZsEQ82lE&feature=related

5: Derek and the Dominos – Layla
I was hooked on this song from the moment you hear the opening guitar riff…I would expect nothing less since it is played by one of the greatest guitarists of our generation.  This is another example of a song that draws me because of the music, and not the words.  It’s not that the lyrics are bad; it’s just that the music is so good.  For me, the best part actually is in the latter half of the song.  If you’ve ever watched the move Goodfellas, you might recognize the theme song is this song.  It is when the song shifts gears into that instrumental part that I really start to get in to it.  If I am working and this song comes on, I can usually keep working through the first part, but once that piano comes on…forget about it.  Inevitably I find myself tapping on the table and bopping my head while getting lost in the creative genius that I hear.

You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw01019P19g&feature=related

I hope you’re able to take a few moments to listen (if you aren’t already familiar with these songs)…but more importantly, I hope there’s music out there that speaks to you and has the same impact that these songs have on me.