One of the many privileges I enjoyed at IU was the Little 500. I'll talk another time about the music played during the race, but I want to focus on something that happens before.
Something that brought me nearly to tears every time was Straight No Chaser, IU's male a cappella group, singing "Back Home Again in Indiana." I have strong positive memories of hearing Jim Nabors sing it before the Indianapolis 500 (both on TV and live at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway), so that explains much of my fondness for the song. What moves it from fondness to near-tears is the way it is sung. Ten singers, all in striking harmony, performing in pure human voice a song that I associate with great Hoosier sporting events is, in my opinion, enough to make even the most hardened Midwesterner weep.
I got the same feeling during my freshman year at IU when I discovered a dorm friend's album, Dry Clean Only, from Brown University's own a cappella group, Brown Bear Necessities. The album featured a cappella versions of several pop songs, and although I didn't recognize all of them, I took a liking to a few.
I especially liked two of them, but for entirely different reasons. The first, a cover of U2's "Beautiful Day," captured even better than the original an upbeat and optimistic spirit in the face of difficulty. Sometimes, I might get it in my head that it was downright better than the original! The second was a cover of The Police's "King of Pain." I would not hear the original for another two years, so my first introduction to the song was strictly in human voice. I saw it as the perfect song for those situations when you feel like nothing is going right, when you hope you find someone in more pain than you are but it just doesn't feel like that'll happen. Whereas "Beautiful Day" was the perfect representation of happy feelings, "King of Pain" was the perfect catharsis for those downer days.
I listened to those songs intently for the remainder of that year, but as I got busier and found more music, they were eventually neglected. And after my laptop's hard drive died in April of 2011, I lost track of those tracks. (Ba-dum, tish.) I still had ways of restocking my iTunes library, but things seemed incomplete, even if I wasn't sure what would complete it.
Then, within the past few months, I looked back through an old external hard drive, and I found loads of songs that I had procured during that freshman year and that I hadn't heard in a long time. One of the first of these rediscovered tracks was "Beautiful Day," and damn it if the song wasn't even happier than I remembered it. I couldn't stop smiling when the vocal percussion replaced drums and guitar with, "Jada, de-jada, jada, de-jada-jada-jada!" "King of Pain," in its own evocative way, created a similarly strong reaction, one that I felt could not be expressed any better.
That freshman year opened a lot of doors, not just in my experience of music. This series of blog posts focuses on music, however, so for a while I'll stick with that aspect of freshman year, when I sat in the floor lounge with other dorm mates and listened to songs I likely would never have found on my own. Listening to these songs again, after languishing for years in the depths of an external hard drive, brings back so many memories and sentiments, and I want to record them before I hear them too many times and the feelings get lost.
Next week: Mika.