One of the best parts of my job as a mind-body-spirit fitness teacher is that I spend a lot of time curating music. The majority of my classes this year have been taught to playlists I designed, rather than using the licensed music that comes with the routines Nia teachers receive from Nia HQ. Those playlists are wonderful in their own right, but there’s something precious to me about spending time with singer/songwriters, listening to lyrics and the quality of the vocals and instrumentation, sensing in my body how a song feels to dance to, what emotions it activates, what kind of journey it takes me on.
I used to write songs as a girl, curled up in my bedroom with the pink roses and blue dots on the wallpaper, a little plug-in two octave organ on the floor and my beloved folk guitar in its case by the door. The first song I ever learned to play on guitar was Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” The second was the Beatles’ “In My Life.” Classics. I wrote a song about an angel coming down to earth that my parents decided was brilliant, clear evidence of future genius. (Sorry mom and dad.) My mom was friends at the time with Hal David, Burt Bacharach’s lyricist for many years. Mr. David kindly agreed to hear me out. He didn’t say much about my songs, but he insisted that if I ever wanted to make it in music, I needed to train seriously and quit ditzing around on the bedroom floor with chord charts. I began studying classical guitar (scales upon scales), which was the first nail in the coffin of my career as a singer-songwriter.
It’s amazing how our childhood passions follow us and find ways to express themselves in our adult lives. Pregnant and nursing, sleep deprived with little kids, in the car and at work, dessicated by stress or buoyed by joy, songs have always been my milieu. There’s an intimate connection between the human voice and the poetry of a lyric that speaks to me, heals me, articulates all those complex feelings and sensations that I can’t express. I once left work after a difficult encounter with an unnecessarily hostile colleague. I got in the car, and my phone shuffled up Taylor Swift’s “Mean:” wounded, rightfully outraged, and bitchy all at once. Just how I felt. When Swift sings, “All you are is mean and a liar and pathetic/And alone in life,” it’s so funny and relatable.
This morning I taught class to a July 4th playlist with several songs by singer-songwriters. (And some tunes that are just a blast to move to – it was a dance class, after all.) After class, a student asked me to post the playlist. I’m glad the songs spoke to her as well. So thanks, Keb Mo’, Paul Simon, Don MacLean, James Taylor, Katy Perry & others, for voicing what was on our hearts.