Add these things together, and you can understand why I have always had a song for every event, mood and occasion. I have used my mental jukebox and singing voice to vocalize my emotions. I have songs to motivate me when I need to recharge my energy, and other songs to give voice to loneliness and sadness. My repertoire includes plenty of songs to express joy and celebrate life. They are all part of why music has always been central to my own resilience.
I’ve thought about these things—and wrote this piece—after recently reading Harriett Beecher Stowe’s famous nation-changing 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe evokes powerful images of the enslaved women and men who labored under the hot southern sun, picking cotton.
They often sang spirituals together as they worked. “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” was one of the popular tunes included in the 1867 collection Slave Songs of the United States, the first-ever collection of African American music. Singing together was a way to ease each other’s pain and sorrow, and to provide strength to get through another day of bondage.
Another cultural reference: In the 1956 movie adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I,” Deborah Kerr in “I Whistle a Happy Tune” sings:
While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows I’m afraid
The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people I fear
I fool myself as well
Her whistling is a version of “fake it until you make it.” The cheerful music diverts her mind from her fear so she can act instead with courage. It helps her manage her emotions and act from a more centered position.
Clearly, as research shows and as the pandemic singing and slave songs of old remind us, music can help us deal with whatever life may bring (or throw at) us—whether we whistle, sing, or simply listen, especially if it’s shared with others.
We hope that you were able to find out how music inspires your heart and soul. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
Written by: John-Manuel Andriote Originally appeared on: Psychology Today Republished with permission