We humans have an innate need to find things to which we can relate on a level so deep, so…cellular…that we almost suffer, we ache in our very fiber, from the profound joy of realizing that someone truly gets us.
Case in point: My friends at Caballo Press of Ann Arbor are giving a great gift to the world. “Horsenameographies: Life Stories in a Race Horse Name” by Horse Lovers Everywhere. Even as I write this, the book is hot off the press. The lovely collection brings into our hearts the names of 200+ people–their real names, I would daresay–for these are names that people chose for themselves, or which Fate gave them subsequent to the monikers assigned them upon birth. The publishers spent the Autumn of 2009 asking the questioin: “If you were a race horse–who would you be?”
An extraordinary question, for, indeed–Life, itself, is a race.
And, as they say: if you ain’t the lead horse–the scenery never changes.
Along these same lines, I would pose the question today: What’s your theme song? Music is like oxygen to me: I could not live without it. Virtually every significant moment of my Life has been accompanied by music that either was playing in the background, or conjured in my brain as events unfolded. I’m sure it’s the same for you: Bach and Beatles, Miles Davis and Stone Temple Pilots. emo, Rap, Soul, R&B, Rock, Metal, Baroque, Medieval and Renaissance–someone, somewhere (I’m paraphrasing Debussey here)–reached into Heaven, pulled down music from the celestial realms and it became part of the tapestry of your Life. Without music in our Lives, we go through motions but lack emotion. Like a movie without a soundtrack, actions become flat, two-dimensional and grey–only shades of grey…
It hardly seems possible, but deeper-still than this (truly significant) orchestration of our Life Events is a piece of music that somewhere, somehow, helped define you.
You were young. You were old. You were in transition. You were figuring out if you were a tower of strength and a Force of Nature–or a more passive soul, content to accept things as they come along. As your soul crawled out of the primordial mud and formed, it posed questions about who you would be and what would matter to you. What would become important enough that you would be willing to go into battle to defend it? Would anything or anyone be that important, or does the thought of fighting off the Visigoths make you run into the cloakroom of your youth?
Do you wear pastels or bright colors?
Black or white?
Is your Life photographed in sepia tones, or vibrant jewels?
However you realized you felt most comfortable in your own skin–and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to be–there was no doubt a definitive moment when you heard a song or a tune that drilled itself into your spirit, like a sword in that mythical stone, and took up residence there.
In that moment, you felt vibrantly, definitely alive.
In that moment that the piece of music surgically implanted in your very being–everything became much-more clear. “Ah, yes!” said your heart, “that’s who I am.”
Your actions, your ideals, your philosophies–all would be informed at least to a degree–by that music because it confirmed that which you already knew about yourself. That gift of God, transmitted via an insightful human messenger–gave you strength; confirmed your resolve and steeled your soul so that you may jump in, head-first, and fully participate in this Life that you own.
Even “bad” people–those deemed to be sociopaths–have been inspired by music, but we mustn’t blame the music, itself or the composer. Some ditty, somewhere, has been the excuse, that it tripped the trigger of many acts of evil. Neither music nor musician can be blamed for this twisted accusation: music of its own accord has no ethical or moral value. It is the receiver, the spiritual instrument, who takes the tune and either creates a Life of giving and attempts at virtue–or who chooses instead to go out in a blaze of misdirected “glory,” the soundtrack warped as the notes are misinterpreted by crazy chemicals swirling in a soup of cranial confusion.
Don’t blame the music for the bad actions of humans.
But by all means, do sit down and think about your own Theme Song. What is your theme song? Everyone has one, whether or not you realize it. Somewhere out there, there exists a piece of music to which your soul relates so directly and intensely that you feel in your most private moments that it must have been penned just for you. I urge you to think about this question, about how you relate to that music, and why.
My theme song is “Avenging Annie” by Andy Pratt. If you’re not familiar with the song, I heartily urge you to go to iTunes and listen and then buy it, ASAP. (Note: While I respect Roger Daltrey, his version of the song does not hold a candle to the original. Roger’s voice doesn’t have the range to meet the demands of the piece, or the emotional content required to deliver the song as soaring, sweeping literature. Stick with Andy’s original version, or his live recording. Go to iTunes, or to one of his links, below.)
Why “Avenging Annie”?
Well, it’s like this. I was a sullen 16-year-old. It’s a wonder my Mother didn’t defenestrate me without notice. I’d been reared by two strong, smart women: Mom and Gram. But, uh, let’s say that I’d not-yet realized that I was first in line to inherit their spirit of resilience, fortitude and insight. I spent a large chunk of my 16th year lying face-up across my bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering with great resentment “why nobody understands me.”
Then, one day in 1973, just before my 17th birthday, I woke up, literally. The funk lifted and I could see clearly through eyes that previously had been shrouded I went to school, did all the things of the day before–but I was different. I made many Life decisions during this time of burgeoning self-actualization–most of which are still part of my belief system to this day. I turned 17 shortly thereafter, and knew that I had a much better grasp on Life–most important, I had a serious idea of who I was becoming, and why I was on the planet.
Shortly after my 17th birthday, I was listening to the radio, and I heard this song. A symphony, really, that began with hoofbeats, two popgun shots and a soaring piano introduction. A wild west ode? A rock opera? “Avenging Annie” came blasting into my consciousness, and took me by storm as a tornado overtakes the flats of Oklahoma, tossing controlled chaos in its wake.
The lyrics aren’t the main reason why “Avenging Annie” took me by the soul and claimed me
as her own. I mean, the story line–a woman narrator tells us about her devotional love to a man who was cruel to her. Their relationship started out all hearts and flowers, and turned to something sordid, violent and illegal. This was not my story, at all. Even at 17, I was savvy enough to smell a skunk when he came trundling out of the woods.
What first captured my attention and my imagination was the piano intro, then the fact that the song was sung by a man who had the single-most remarkable vocal range I’d ever heard. The chorus is sung in falsetto, but there’s a moment when Andy–the singer–goes to the profoundly low register, basso profundo. (Hence the “profundo.”) This tweaked my curiosity, but that alone wasn’t enough to make this song the one that would come to heart so often during the course of my Life.
It was the feeling of the chorus, “They call me ‘Avenging Annie,’ the avenger of womanhood…” that brought light into my dark eyes. Somehow I felt that I would be called upon many times during my life to be a caregiver-heroine-advocate. To walk in the footsteps of “The Avenger from Oklahoma” was not necessarily a calling to anger, but to stand up for those who are weaker than myself.
This was a vocation into which I could sink my teeth.
I don’t know if that song directed many of the circumstances of my Life thereafter, or if I’d been given the strong connection to the song to sustain me during those times that would arise. Chicken or egg, the song has stood me in good stead over the years. Two years later, I became my Grandmother’s caregiver. Two years after that, I took my first “real” job, to make money to pay for a nurse for Gram. From the cocoon of our safe home to working in a psychiatric halfway house, where I wrestled butcher knives from the hands of a paranoid schizophrenic and spent three days comforting a woman with clinical depression–Avenging Annie was my patron saint.
Over the years I’ve been called upon to stand between women and their abusers; tell a Hell’s Angel to “…get the Hell out of my way” and channel Jack Nicholson when an impatient doctor pierced the pericardium that surrounds my Mother’s heart. I wouldn’t have chosen these circumstances to arise–but I was always grateful that Avenging Annie had, back in 1973, somehow imparted to me the information that I could stand for those who were in need, and not back down.
So I find myself on the afternoon of the debut of “View from a Broad,” a racing talk radio show. I am not the ultimate defender or advocate. I am just one woman with the desire to make the equine sporting world a more egalitarian place for women and girls, and a safer, more nurturing place for horses and other animals.
My passion to advance other females and to protect horses from the ravages of human cruelty had its roots in those two strong, smart women who loved and reared me in the 1950s, when strong, smart women weren’t necessarily appreciated. The parade of pets and horses who early-on came into my Life to bless and nurture me contributed to the tenderness of heart that blossomed within me.
As I think about this radio show and my vocation as a writer and advocate, I cannot move forward without a blessing from Saint Annie of Oklahoma–the unwitting mythical woman who grew out of the fertile imagination of Andy Pratt, a man of great creative talents and spiritual depth. “Avenging Annie” is the theme song of my Life, and of “View from a Broad.”
Everyone has a theme song. Just as horse lovers have their own Horsenameography–their race horse name–I would posit that every person experiences a moment in time when their souls crystallize–and that a piece of music was present to make that moment so clear, so bright and obvious. The song participated in that moment of self-actualization, and–whether chicken or egg–that music will forever be a golden thread in the tapestry of that human Life.
So I ask again, What’s your theme song? I would love to read your responses to that question, and a bit about how and why the painting of your Life is richer for it.
Thanks for sharing, and many thanks to Andy Pratt–first for giving Avenging Annie, the
woman, to the world, and for reaching into the galaxy to retrieve her story. Your willingness as an artist is a reflection of God’s own creativity. And thank you for allowing me to use your song for my radio show, and for my Life.
And…as the great Harvey Pack said, May the Horse be with you.
“View from a Broad”:
* Sheet Music: Mr. Kozichek, Band Director/General Music
Franklin Avenue Middle School, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey
(via Google Images search)
* Shaker Tree of Life
* Annie Oakley: www.AmericanTallTales.net
* Andy Pratt: Northern Music and Andy Pratt