Five Songs that Make Me Cry Happy Tears

Eleven o clock AM and nobody is on Facebook. Nothing is interesting on the Internet. It’s my day off, and I have a cup of coffee, and I just spent 8 hours (maybe 5 of it actually asleep) at the neurological center. Then I came home to round off my “sleep” with another five hours sleep. I’m feeling mostly recuperated now.

I hear noise upstairs, the big-city College Boy just rolled out of bed so I’m not the only one lazing around the house this morning.

This morning I have flaming purgatory sleep study hair. They stick the electrodes onto my scalp with paste. Actual honest-to-goodness paste. I didn’t eat any. Do you know how long it takes for a shower to get hot enough to remove about 1/4 cup of paste from your hair? Well it turns out NOBODY knows, because nobody’s ever managed it in shower.

Me with my extra-special sleep study hair.

Are there things you secretly love? stuff you don’t usually talk about near your friends, because they would think you’ve smoking the Magic Colorado Wacky Weed (well, more than usual I mean)? I’ve heard them called guilty pleasures before. That term doesn’t seem quite right because I’m not sure I want to know about the kinds of pleasures that would land you in jail.

Here are a few songs that I remember being so amazing that it brought happy tears to my eyes when I was younger:

Ever since the first time I heard the tune “Dueling Banjos” (made popular in the 70s movie Deliverance). Here’s a version of the song that was played on the Andy Griffith Show, a bunch of years before Deliverance popularized it. If Wikipedia is a credible source, the Andy Griffith Show is where the song first made its popular debut.

Another piece that, as a child, was so good it made me cry: Frank Mills’s “Music Box Dancer.” It hit the billboard charts in 1978 or 1979. I was instantly captivated by the piano music. When I was twelve or so years old, I actually found the sheet music at some record store (remember back when all the record stores the carried sheet music?) and bought it. I’d been taking piano lessons since, what, seventh grade or so, back when I was eleven, so I figured I could teach myself to play it. I never got past the 3rd or 4th measure. I may be the only person in the universe to be swept by tears into the loveliness of the Frank Mills piece. Oh–and get a load of this video. SO MUCH SEVENTIES!

Of a totally different flavor, sometimes the joy comes in sharing music with another person, and seeing their reaction when it’s as good as you’d hoped. This happened last year, the first time I shared Charles Ives with my son, grumpy cat (remember

Grumpy Son

Grumpy Cat)? Anyway, in the car, on the way to one of his lessons, we started talking about the song “At the River”, which led us to Aaron Copland, who led us to the insurance-salesman-by-day composer Ives (who wrote a way-weirder version of “At the River”). First we listened to “Charlie Rutledge” (nobody should be allowed to sing Ives but Samuel Ramey, by the way). I think he was slightly in shock at the dissonance and the crashing chords (not to mention the accompanist being forced to shout “yippee ki-yi yay!”). I was proud he was getting it. We moved through a number of other pieces, ending with “The Circus Band.”

When Ramey sings “Hear the trombones!” and the tempo slows like an elephant, I looked at Alex and said “Did you hear that?” I start to get happy, and begin to weep. I’m a sucker for hearing the trombones. I dunno. There’s something about music from the turn of the last century that transports me to a time that certainly wasn’t more pure, but maybe more innocent.

Speaking of 1900, I loved this song since I was small. It made me happy-with-tears. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a march thing, deep in my blood. Maybe ragtime boils inside me without me knowing it. By the way, Scott Joplin wrote two operas.

As a fan said on the one YouTube comment I’ve ever read: “[this song] makes me want to put my best white dress shirt, … grow a curly mustache, put on a monocle and then start a bar fight”.

Okay: one last piece. I remember this song making me so happy I’d cry as a kid. I even wrote an entire blog post dedicated to the history of the song a few years back.

The cool chanting, the falsetto of the lead singer, the soprano descant taking turns with a sobbing alto sax, and the exotic (for the 1960s anyway) percussion session. This song was perfect when I was ten years old. That’s right: The Tokens “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Here is the blog post I wrote back in 2011.

I’m no lion but I slept last night. Good sleep study will make me well.


2 thoughts on “Five Songs that Make Me Cry Happy Tears”

  1. Music Box Dancer used to play from the speakers of the ice cream truck that drove around my neighborhood as a kid in the 80s. It sounded a lot like the first few seconds of the video above, not so much with all the vocals and percussion accompaniments. My life is richer for having watched that bit of 70s wonderment.


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