More Music Memories
I hadn't heard the Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" for a long time, and when I bought it last night I couldn't imagine why I had. But when I heard it today, I suddenly remembered that when I was a child, I always thought that song was about Jesus. I don't know how I got that idea, but I have a clear recollection of hearing the song on the radio and getting a mental picture of Jesus carrying a man in his arms. A big man. A hurt or hungry man. I think I was very little at the time and this image was deeply comforting to me.
Where did this image come from? Maybe it just came unbidden to the imagination of Little PeaceBang, or maybe it was inspired by other groovy Jesus songs from that approximate era, like "Jesus Is Just Alright" and "Spirit In The Sky" -- both of which (whether they came at the same time or later) gave me a similar mental image of a groovy, hippie Jesus I liked very much. It all seemed one with the kind of peace and love stuff like "Good Morning, Starshine" and "Day By Day."
I was reminded today that "He Ain't Heavy" is a helluva song. It's musically beautiful. It tells a story. It has a message. It evokes an era. It's been a delight to dig some of those old songs back up and to let them wash over me, bringing back smells and feelings and sights from my childhood and filling me with a simple bodily longing for the sights, smells and sounds of my own family, my clan, and for my own past.
We used to go to my Uncle Dick's house many weekends in the summer, a beautiful mansion on a private beach in Connecticut and could comfortably fit me and my 12 cousins and my dad and his three big brothers and all their wives. The house was glamorous and had zebra pillows and fur throw rugs and the men smoked cigars inside and there was always rich food, like chicken liver and snazzy crackers, and I still remember the smell of the water in the pool, and how it felt to slide down the slide into the pool.
We'd hear songs like, "Get Right Back To Where We Started From" and "Afternoon Delight" and "We're All Alone Now" and "Playground In My Mind" and "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and "Feelings" in the car on the way there and back, and my dad would sing with his big, croony voice, totally sincere, totally sentimental. When he didn't know the words he'd go, "VA VA VA" or "MMM HMMM" with just as much feeling, and we kids would silently crack up in the back seat. He LOVED his Barry Manilow. We all did. We all still do. He makes us cry. He made our daddy cry.
If someone farted, no one said a word but the windows would just silently roll down and again, we kids would silently crack up in the back seat.
My little brother would say something about how we must have just passed the Egg Factory -- risking sure death with our fart-phobic parents -- and we'd start silently cackling again, but Mom and Dad's necks would be very still and dignified up there in the front, and the radio played on.
I remember one time we were listening to "Get Right Back To Where We Started From," and when the song said,
"and if you get hurt
by the little things I say
I can put that smile back on your face"
either my dad or mom reached for the other, and they squeezed hands. From the backseat point of view of a little girl whose parents had a pretty terrible marriage, that was a very nice moment, and a very nice memory.