Great songs which lifted our hearts during the saddest year of the century
How I miss you in the morning light
Like roses miss the dew
From “I Remember Everything”
By John Prine
How many tears have fallen listening to this song? Those words, from the last song recorded by John Prine, released in 2020, sadly say it all. Now four days into 2021, looking back over the totality of the previous year, it’s clear no song says it better. That we lost John this year made it way sadder. Like so many, it was his passing that hit me in the gut – and the heart – with the awful recognition that this coronavirus was serious.
That he should be the one to say it all with what seems like a simple song should be no surprise. He did that for 50 years, bringing songs which went to our hearts and stayed there forever. And he did it in our own words, in remarkably expanding songs.
“Hello In There” was amazing when it first emerged. We were kids then, and could feel the sorrow, which we projected onto our grandparents. 50 years later it’s expanded in meaning in every direction, linked forever to our personal history, and the collective history of this nation. Which, let’s face it, has been through hell since its release. Look at how much he packed into these three simple lines. It’s about personal tragedy as well as the reality of aging, when even the worst parts of life have faded through the decades:
… we lost Davy in the Korean war
And I still don’t know what for
Don’t matter anymore
“Hello In There” was amazing when it first emerged. We were kids then, and could feel the sorrow, which we projected onto our grandparents. 50 years later it’s expanded in meaning in every direction, linked forever to our personal history, and the collective history of this nation. Which, let’s face it, has been through hell since its release. He had that genius knack for finding a beautiful image – one we all knew – to perfectly evoke aspects of human life that words alone don’t deliver.
I remember everything/Things I can’t forget
Swimming pools of butterflies that slipped right through the net
So John Prine is here, and forever linked to 2020, sadly. The world without him hasn’t been too great. This song helped, as did the bounty of amazing songs he left.
But there’s much else about 2020: Marilyn Manson’s astounding collaboration with Shooter Jennings on “We Are Chaos,” the anthem of madness unfolding in real-time; Dion’s great “Song for Sam Cooke,” performed with Paul Simon, and great songs from Joe Henry, Barry Keenan, CeeLo Green, Finneas and Sabrina Chap.
Happy New Year, 2021.
John Prine, “I Remember Everything”
Marilyn Manson, “We Are Chaos”
Joe Henry, “Orson Welles”
Dion with Paul Simon,
“Song For Sam Cooke (Here In America)”
Barry Keenan, “You’re Not The Only Lonely One”
Finneas, “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night”
CeeLo Green, “People Watching”
Sabrina Chap, “Italians are Singing from their Windows.”
“The visions of Italians singing to each other from balconies in self-isolation,” said Sabrina Chap, “expressed to me the power of both music and community at this time. We need to feel connected, and we need to consciously look for joy amidst the tragedies.”
So she wrote this, “Italians Are Singing from their Windows,” o of the first songs to emerge during the pandemic to shine a light on the human triumph in the midst of the madness, we were proud to share it with the world.
“In quarantine,” she said, “Italians sang from their windows to each other to keep joy and hope alive. This inspired me. We’re going to need to light the fires of hope in our hearts daily. I hope this song helps.”