The Creation of a Song Can Change the World
Doobie Brothers’ Tom Johnston and Elvis Costello in Queenstown, New Zealand, April 2014
I’m here to kindly challenge a comment Doobie Brothers singer/songwriter Tom Johnston made about his song “Listen to the Music” in an interview with SongFacts. If you’ve not heard the tune, you’re probably mistaken. You have, and just didn’t know it. It’s been on top radio lists (topped the charts at #11) and has been heard in advertising for major brands and is one of the most uplifting songs written.
Last night we saw the Doobie Brothers in Queenstown New Zealand at the Queenstown Blues and Roots Festival. It was a great experience. I used to drive many highway miles in my college days from the East Coast to Utah, listening to their music, so seeing them live for the first time 40 years later was full-circle experience.
The Doobie Brothers’ first hit was written by the band’s lead vocalist Johnston, who also played guitar on the track. Johnston described the motivation for the song as a call for world peace:
“The chord structure of it made me think of something positive, so the lyrics that came out of that were based on this utopian view of the world.
“The idea was that music would lift man up to a higher plane, and that world leaders, if they were able to sit down on some big grassy knoll where the sun was shining and just listened to the music – such as the type I was playing – would figure out that everybody had more in common than they had not in common, and it was certainly not worth getting in such a bad state of affairs about.
“Everybody in the world would therefore benefit from this point of view. Just basically that music would make everything better. The world would be a much better place. And of course I’ve since kind of realized it doesn’t work that way. It was very utopian and very unrealistic. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
I think Johnston might have been a bit premature in that assessment.
Auckland New Zealand recording artist Mark Laurent writes in a song on track 2 of his album Undergrowth,
“Everything we do, matters somewhere,
You let the cat jump out of the bag,
It hits the floor running and never looks back,
I’m gonna pick up this ball point pen, I’m going to change the world,
I play the chord and I play it again, I’m going to change the world,”
This adds fuel to the creative fire and idea, that words and music do indeed change the world and that Johnston’s intent in writing Listen tot the Music, is actually being realized. To the untrained eye, it might seem hard to see sometimes, but by focusing on what is good in the world, actually we see that humankind is on the brink of colossal change for the better, evolution and at the same time upheaval. The Hundredth Monkey Effect is right at our doorstep. The tipping point, when we’ll really be living fully in a humane, compassionate and just world is happening before our eyes.
The energy is changing throughout the world. Check out Where the Hell is Matt if you’ve not seen it yet, for a powerful video with regular people dancing from all over the world, set to very timely music which was written for the video. THAT sort of thing was simply not possible a few years ago. There is no way the old order can survive such positive vibes.
Pat Simmons and son performing Listen to the Music, Queenstown, NZ
Speaking of positive vibes, when the Doobie Brothers played Listen to the Music as their encore, I could just feel a wave of energy. Call it what you want, but “that is powerful medicine”, as spiritual teacher Sun Bear used to say.
Co-lead band member Patrick Simmons also was putting out great vibes on stage. “He must do inner work of some sort” I thought to myself, as I saw him play the evening out. He seemed perfectly at home in his own skin playing on stage. Probably, he’s just as peaceful off stage as he appears on stage, unlike a lot of rock stars, as witnessed by the tabloids, (not that I read them).
As I used to be a wire services photographer, (UPI) I usually take my camera to events, and caught a shot of Simmons sharing the microphone with a young performer. We thought it might have been one of the buskers who had played earlier, who had been invited up on stage. It seemed to make a good shot, so I took few and sent them off the Doobie Brothers’ website. I got a quick reply and was informed the young performer is Simmons’ son Patrick Jr, who is doing good work on the music scene in his own right in Hawaii. Maybe we can get him to come down to our Mountain Spirit Secluded Sanctuary here in Hawea/Wanaka to do a workshop sometime.
So, listen to the music everyone, and change the world. And to Tom Johnston…keep writing!
Images: Queenstown shots: R. Richards | Mark Laurent from his webpage
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned as I find some links for these songs.