On a recent episode of “All Songs Considered”, Bob and Robin introduced a song by a group they have been fawning over for some time. “This song is about dementia,” one of the hosts said. Oh, I thought, this is something I’ve got to hear, I thought sarcastically.
I’ve never been a fan of songs about things. Certainly, some of my more high-minded friends have criticized my poor musical taste so perhaps my intellect prevents me from fully connecting with songs about things. When you go a concert, the second the performer says, “this song is about…” I know it’s time for me to hit the ladies’ room.
Part of me is embarrassed to admit this way of thinking. I propagate this image of myself as some sort of creative type, but I can never wrap my head around the need to preface a song or most other art forms with “this song is about…” Maybe my taste tends to lean toward art/music that speaks for itself from a deep emotional state. Or even a pop music sort of superficial place.
I was out on a walk when I heard the song that was about dementia. Rather than following my instinct to shut it off, I told myself to open my mind instead. On a personal note, my father was diagnosed with dementia six or seven years ago. After trial and error through different levels of independent living, I had to place him in a nursing home because I am unable to meet his needs. While he knows who I am, he knows very little about me. He either doesn’t remember stuff (he has not understood that he is in New Jersey all these years) or it possibly falls into his lifelong pattern of not being interested enough to pay attention to anything that happens in my life. So because of my complicated lifelong relationship with him, feeling nostalgic for some long departed devotion for him gets pretty muddled.
I considered why this group opted to write a song about dementia. The hosts needed to explain that it is written in the perspective of the person with dementia and they posited that the individual was yearning for their old life. It required too much backstory and I grew bored by it all. The thought of spending my money to purchase a song like this is the last thing I want to do. Songs about causes – or progressive illnesses – have limited usage. If you have people over, do you want to put the dementia song in a playlist for your guests? Is this something you’d enjoy singing along with as you’re stuck in traffic during your commute? As a business owner, would you play this on the sound system for your customers?
As most artists, this group wants to make a living doing their art. Maybe they are hoping to get some recognition from the dementia community or, heck, even get a write-up in the AARP magazine.
But for me, I’m not interested in schtick. Here’s to tunes that make me tap my toes or sway or dance around life. Or at least make traffic more tolerable.