How to get from “Funky Town” to “Shut Up and Dance”

Feel Good Music

For most of this week, I’ve been feeling off-center, off-kilter, just off. Like a rowboat cut free of the dock and without any oars to boot!

This is not good. I’m someone who likes to have focus, direction, and clarity of vision; to know where I’m going and what my plan is.

And on top of all that, I had this newsletter to write.

So, I did what I had to do and re-purposed an article from 2012. I hope you don’t think it’s cheating, because this article is just what I needed! Besides, I got to bring it current.

Music is powerful. There’s no denying that.

But what does it really mean? Let’s look at a real life example of the power of music in action.

Won’t you take me to… Funky Town!

walking under trees

We all have those moments when everything feels like a struggle. Getting out of bed. Going to work. Going out with friends. We just don’t feel like it. Our funk starts to affect our relationships and we need to take some action.

Hey, sorry. I didn’t mean to bring you down! When I was recently in such a downer place, at first I didn’t remember the Power Of Music. Taking a walk among trees always helps and that’s where I started.

After two days of getting some sun and green time, a song popped into my head. All of a sudden I was singing (silently to myself) and I could feel the joy begin to surge through me.

Yes, joy! Just like that. I wasn’t even listening to the song out loud. I was hearing it in my head. And it had the effect of improving my mood.

How does that work?

Our brains are an amazing part of us. In his book, This is Your Brain On Music, Daniel Levitin writes about how we humans make and enjoy music.

The brain is comprised of 14 areas such the temporal lobe and the hippocampus. Each area of the brain has a specific function and becomes activated during specific actions or thoughts.

When you listen to music, “nearly every region of the brain that we know about is involved and nearly every neural subsystem,” writes Levitin.  Music involves so much more than the auditory cortex. Our brain distinguishes absolute pitches, parses simple and complex rhythms, understands lyrics and identifies instruments and a lot more.

Amazing Brain

The real amazing thing I’ve learned about our brains and music is that the same areas of the brain are activated when you are listening to music being played — whether it is played outside your head or inside your head!

When I’m at a club listening to a jazz trio jamming on Ornithology, all those parts of my brain are activated.

When I think the music, play it back in my head without external input, the same areas of my brain are activated!

Remember the funk the music cured? The funk was lifted by music I heard in my head.

This is great news for all of us. We can enjoy music at any time at any place without any special equipment. 😉

Curious about what song lifted my funk? Don’t Rain On My Parade belted out by Barbra Streisand. Even if you’re not in a funk right now, go ahead — click the link and listen. And here she sings it at her concert in Brooklyn, 2012 – when she was 70! Hoot! [Had to delete link. Gone as of 7/8/16]

Or try this tune from Wicked, sung by three actors on Glee: Defying Gravity

In 2012, it was Don’t Rain On My Parade that lifted my spirits. Today, in 2016, it’s this lively pop tune: Shut Up and Dance by Walk The Moon.

Anita and I were at my cousin’s wedding last month. (Congrats to Kate & Cliff!) When the DJ played Shut Up And Dance, eeeeveryone was dancin’!

Positive Listening

Hearing all this great music prompted me to put together a Feel Good Music Playlist.

These are 53 songs that are all about feeling better and feeling good. I call it Up The Positive. Here are the first few titles:

  • It’s A Good Day, written and performed by Peggy Lee
  • That’s How Young I Feel, from Mame
  • It’s Today!, also from Mame (just found a fascinating deconstruction video about this song! Seth Rudetsky takes apart It’s Today from Mame.)
  • The Best Is Yet To Come, found this on a Starbucks (!) compilation disc, sung by Nancy Wilson
  • A Lot Of Livin’ To Do, from the same Starbucks disc, another Nancy Wilson tune 
  • Whose Blues?, this is a saxophone quintet written and performed by Lennie Neihaus
  • Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again), no one else but Barry White
  • Don’t Rain On My Parade, the incredible Babs
  • Samba DeOrfeu/Struttin’ With Some Barbecue, clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Anat Cohen performs the best medley of these two tunes
  • Everything’s Coming Up Roses, from Gypsy, Bette Midler rendition
  • Open a New Window, from Mame. What a great musical! performed by Angela Langsbury. If you didn’t know her before Murder, She Wrote, check out her Broadway career.

Sometimes to feel better all I need do is read the song titles!

But hey, this list is very outdated. I’ve got to at least add Shut Up And Dance!

Personal Song List

Do you have your own personal “get out of the doldrums” music list? If not, I encourage you to make one today.

Even just making the written list of song titles will be helpful. Because, as we have learned, as soon as you read the titles, your songs will start playing in your head. And violá, no more blues! (which, by the way, is a great tune by Antonio Carlos Jobim!  Listen to a vocal by Herbie Hancock or Yo-Yo Ma on cello with jazz quartet.)

If you do already have such a list, what are some of the songs on your list? Any song(s) that makes you feel better counts. No matter the genre: Rhythm & Blues, 80s Pop, Orchestral music, New Orleans Jazz, Broadway Musicals, a combination of all of the above…

What songs make you feel better? Please share in the comments below. I’ll share the new list in a future post.

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