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Songs to Live By--How My Love of Music and Lyrics has Shaped My Life

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Reading can be so uplifting; you can actually transform your mind, mood, outlook and perspective on life through the process of the words entering your mind through your eyes, your head making all sorts of connections quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.

For me, a lifelong love of reading actually began with Dr. Seuss and cemented itself fully to my soul by reading the inside of album covers. Curled up on my stomach on my bedroom rug, with my turntable nearby and Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life" opened before me like a poster entrance to another dimension, I listened to his ridiculously soulful harmonies, his heart-grabbing ballads, his spiritual effervescence and down-to-earth rhythmic pulsations while poring over each and every word of each and every song. The undeniable genius of his ability to match music to lyrics created in me an insatiable longing to find myself within that world. It became a lifelong habit, hobby, pastime and, eventually, career as I went first to the High School of Music and Performing arts as a singer, then to the New England Conservatory of Music to study Jazz and, finally, on to earning my Master's degree at New York University to become a music therapist.

When I had my children I opted for a career in special education, finding the work steadier and more in keeping with my sons' school schedule.

But I've never lost the essential fascination that early melding of lyrics and music held for me. Artfully and poetically rendered lyrics can be words to live by. Joni Mitchell wrote songs which, like books about enlightenment, brought me to another place of reflection and understanding. I didn't just listen to these songs, I studied at their feet.

When I think about how seriously I took the music of my childhood and adolescence, it amazes me. What is shocking is both the intensity of my focus on them, and the unbelievably vapid quality of the music and lyrics popular today.
KT Tunstall, John Mayer, Seal and others have done incredible work over the past few years, but the leaning away from songs to live by and toward songs to fist pump to is a tragedy of the highest degree.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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