Archive for May, 2013

Song #3 for The Songbook is Sunshine on my Shoulders, a 1971 song by John Denver.

I have to say that this particular song is at least in my top five favorites of all-time, if not in one of the top spots.  It’s just so beautiful…the imagery created by the words, and Denver’s voice just make this song heart meltingly wonderful.  But that’s my opinion.  Let’s be objective here.

When doing lyric analysis on this song with some clients, I’ve asked if they think it’s a happy or a sad song.  Sometimes they’ll say happy, sometimes sad.  I can see where everyone is coming from – it has a bittersweet quality that Denver was so good at.  But oftentimes, it’s the line “Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry” that convinces people it’s a sad song, even though the first line is “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.”  Sometimes it’s hard to understand how you can have conflicting expressions of emotion.  From an early age, we’re taught that we smile when we’re happy, and we cry when we’re sad.  But sometimes we can cry when we’re happy as well.

I remember when I figured this out for the first time.  I went to go see ET in the movie theater as a kid.  This is the first time I remember seeing a movie in an actual theater.  Anyway (spoilers for ET ahead), there’s a scene where ET has seemingly died.  I remember weeping because I was so sad.  Then, ET started talking and moving and acting silly, and I was laughing, but I was still crying.  And it hit me…I could be happy and still be so filled with emotion that it needed to leak out my eyes.

I like this YouTube clip because of the interview John Denver is giving right before the song (and not so much the saxophone solo).  He mentions that the “out-of-doors” was always a great inspiration for him, because it’s a shared human experience and something we can all relate to.  And I think that keys right into why Sunshine speaks to me.  I don’t necessarily like sunshine (I burn), but I do like being outside and enjoying the wonder of creation.

The song, too, is about wanting to share a feeling of happiness:

If I had a day that I could give you
I’d give to you a day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way

If I had a tale that I could tell you
I’d tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I’d make a wish for sunshine all the while

In music therapy, I think this song can be a great starting place for a discussion about emotional expression, particularly things that make us happy.  Lyric analysis can be used to dig in to why you would want to share your feelings with others – good and bad.  The chord structure is fairly simple, so a group could be brought together to play together on various tone instruments easily, and it’s slow enough with a consistent chorus that it can be a singing exercise as well.

Thanks for reading!  Hope you have a sunshiney day!


Song #2 in The Songbook is What I Like About You, a song from 1980 by the band The Romantics:

This has all the hallmarks of a hit.  It’s catchy, it’s easy to sing along with, and it’s easy to play – three chords are all you have to know (the song is written in F, but for those of use who don’t like to use barre chords, you can just repeat E-A-D-A over and over and over).  The lyrics aren’t terribly deep – it’s a guy talking about what he likes about a girl.  The brilliance of the song comes in its energy, which is really quite contagious.

I hadn’t thought about this song in a while until my work instituted a What I Like About You wall – people were encourage to write something positive about someone and stick it up on the wall.  They even got me to track down the song so they could play it over the PA when announcing it.  So, it came back into my consciousness, and for the last week, I’ve been using it as a songwriting activity.  Specifically, we’ve been rewriting the lyrics to What I Like About Spring (the weather is finally getting warmer here in Northwest Indiana, and the flowers are starting to pop out all over).  Here’s a sample of what the clients have come up with –

What I like about spring, the grass is green
The flowers are blooming, the birds are all chirping

What I like about spring, the birds and the bees
Butterflies everywhere, in the flowers and the trees

What I like about spring, you get to be outside
Looking at the flowers, the lilies and the dandelions

What I like about spring, you get to go to the pool
Easter’s here, and you get spring break from school

And I’ve been using the same chorus with everyone:

Keeps getting warmer everyday, summer’s not too far away
So I’ll sing, that’s what I like about spring

I’ve been recording the verses on GarageBand into one giant song, and this coming week, I’m hoping to get the clients to add in some instrumentation – drum beats, keyboard effects, etc.  The creative process has been good so far – the clients have enjoyed getting involved in the creation with others they aren’t in session with.  It’s creating a kind of community without even being around each other.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!