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With a song in my heart

Country Roads

During a quick stop at a local auto parts store last week I heard singing from one of the aisles. I peeked around a corner and saw a store employee singing away while stocking shelves.

Always an unapologetic smart aleck I told the young man, “You know, there are America’s Got Talent scouts in the area today!” He looked up and grinned. “Bring ’em on!” he replied.

I assured the young man that he had a nice voice and I admired people who sing while they work. He told me he sings while he works all the time. Pointing to an older gentleman in the store, the young man said, “I’ll keeping singing until management tells me to quit.”

The song he was singing was a contemporary rock number but I could not identify the song. Fifty-five years ago I could name every song on the rock and roll Top 40. Not today.

While the Lord blessed me with a loud and resonant voice, he endowed me with absolutely no musical talent.

I remember asking a music teacher how I could improve my signing voice. He said, “Join a choir. Stand in the back row and mouth the words. Don’t sing out loud.”

I took his direction with good humor and have never even attempted to join a choir.

But just because I can’t sing doesn’t mean I don’t sing.

Back in my radio days I sang. Shortly after 6 a.m. when I was alone in the building and playing country records I sang along with some of the tunes. Double-checking to be sure the microphone was off, I belted out “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Young Love,” “Tiger by the Tail” and “Don’t Squeeze My Charmin “ with abandon.

Likewise, I can be Elvis Presley when alone in my car.

That’s it. I don’t even sing in church for fear I’ll mess up the good singers around me. My most joyful noise is silence.

All of that said, I love music. I admire good singers and musicians. And I’m thankful for the gift of music.

Martin Luther explained the power of music: “My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.”

I understand. While I am not a musician by any stretch of the imagination I can read music and taught myself to play the melody line of songs on a keyboard. During a time of my life when my work-related stress level was in the danger zone I found that a half-hour of plinking out the melodies of familiar old hymns and gospel songs calmed my spirit.

Even today, retired and with a much-diminished stress level, I enjoy listening to music as an act of relaxation. A half hour of streaming Pandora music calms my spirit and smooths the burrs that may have developed in my heart.

I know I’m showing my age when I admit that I much prefer older to what passes for modern music.

I began listening to rock and roll music when I was about 10 years old. My father’s reaction to my choice of music: “Turn that crap down!”

Sixty-plus years later, my opinion of much of the contemporary music: “Turn that crap down!”

Over the years my musical tastes have expanded. These days I enjoy everything from the light classics to big band swing to traditional country music to Southern gospel. I also enjoy Perry Como, Andy Williams, Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney. The old hymns of the church are particularly meaningful.

Though I don’t sing aloud very often, I often find myself mentally singing a familiar tune. Those tunes are usually related to a specific memory.

When I was very young my father often sang “You Are My Sunshine.” Sometimes he would sing it in German. Dad’s been gone for 28 years but I sometimes still sing “You Are My Sunshine” in my mind.

Music of all genres is a gift. We each have our favorite styles of music but those different styles can mean the same thing to our individual spirits.

And so it was, I told the young man in the auto parts store to keep on singing. Though I didn’t recognize his song I recognize the power of a song in the heart.

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