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The power of music and memories

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a concert to see Mark Knopfler. For those of you not of a certain age or musical inclination, this man is a real life living legend of the music world (in my opinion). He was the lead singer of a band called Dire Straits, one of the most successful British bands of all time and since they split in 1995 he has been going solo. With Dire Straits he has written some of the most recognisable and iconic songs from the late 70's through to the earl 90's. If you really don't know then get yourself over to Youtube and search Sultans of Swing, Brothers in Arms or Money for Nothing. But this post isn't designed to be some sort of music history lesson.

The actual reason for this post relates to one particular song he played called Romeo and Juliet. This is a beautiful song that absolutely deserves to be labelled a 'classic'. It's a song that Knopfler wrote for Dire Straits and was released when I was just 14. I don't really remember when I heard the song for the first time but I can absolutely recall listening to it when I was 15. The song has been part of my life ever since and at any given time there will have been an LP, cassette, CD or Spotify playlist in my collection that has this song included.

On the way to the concert we were chatting about the night ahead and wondering what songs he would sing. Remember, this was him as a solo artist, not singing with the band I remember from 30 years ago. We were led to believe that he included some of the old band songs in his set and we both agreed that he had to do Romeo and Juliet. Surely he had to? It would be like going to watch Celine Dion and she didn't sing the theme from TItanic.

So, now to the heart of what this post is about.........

About the fourth or fifth song in, the lights dimmed and the unmistakable intro played out across the Arena, met with unanimous applause and the sight that seems to be synonymous with live concerts nowadays - thousands of people all starting the video recordings on their mobile phones.

About halfway through the song when the melody started to build, I felt a real wave of emotion run through me. I'm not ashamed to admit that tears filled my eyes as the words were sung exactly the way I remember them. Even though the singer is almost 40 years older now, his voice is so distinctive and has barely changed. I had a feeling that this would happen to me but it still took me by surprise. It was only after the concert had finished and on the way home that I gave serious thought to what had happened.

Many people will have an emotional reaction to a song. The words may be particularly poignant or meaningful. Maybe it reminds them of a particular event in their life. Perhaps it's the favourite song of a loved one that is no longer here. There are any number of reasons why it can happen. However, for me, it was none of those things.

It did not trigger memories of a particular time or person in my life. It's not even my favourite song and Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits are not even my favourite artists.

My conclusion is that it was something deeper than that. This song has been present in my life from my teens, through my 20's, 30's 40's and right up to now. As I said, it is not my favourite song but I suppose I would have it in my top 20. It is a song I have never tired of hearing and I think I can honestly say I have never met a person that has heard it and disliked it. It has stood the test of time and appeals to all generations. This is why it is a classic. There was a day when this song never existed. It hadn't even been imagined. Then there was a day when just an ordinary man who had an idea for a melody and some lyrics started to formulate something that he probably hoped would be good. I would love to ask Mark Knopfler when he knew that he had created something special. He seems to be a very humble man and I can imagine him playing it down, but this was an exceptional creation.

Just as there was a day that it never existed, there was a day when it was finished. A day when it was released and a day when I heard it for the first time. A day when millions of other people heard it for the first time. Then, many years down the line, you realise just how good this song is. This is not just another song you hear from your youth after decades have passed and think "wow, I've not heard that one in ages".

So why the stirring of such emotion?

It's because there he was. The man that had the vision and idea was right there, just yards away, performing it. It wasn't a cover version. It wasn't a recording. It was the real person singing the actual song. For me it felt like witnessing something special. Like a life event that will never be forgotten. People would ask how the concert was and I'd tell them it was excellent, but that nowhere near does justice to that 5 minutes or so when I witnessed the genius that created something so special, re-create it again, perfectly, right in front of my eyes and ears. Anyone with talent could get on stage, with a guitar and perform that song. In fact I'm sure many have. But it's nothing close to what I was privileged to witness. This was the real thing.

So, what does all this mean?

Well, you don't need me to tell you that music can stir emotions. Everyone knows that. However, what it did show me is the importance of experiencing life. Listen to music, talk to people, visit places, do different things. These experiences create memories. You hear a song for the first time, speak to somebody that becomes a friend or pay a visit to a famous landmark and you create one of these memories. You have no idea how significant these memories may prove to be but the more you create, the more chance you have of finding something that turns out to be special. You enrich your life in some small way when you enjoy the initial experience and then only time will tell if there turns out to be some sort of lasting impact. Then, at some point in the future, you may come to realise how important certain past events were and the associated memories that go with them can fill you with joy. You may find yourself reminiscing with an old friend and some of these memories come flooding back.

I got emotional at that concert because I had an appreciation for a particular song. That's all. But everything fell into place, over years, for me to have that experience last week. A man had to write the song. I had to have heard it for the first time. I had to have liked it. Then I had to have liked it enough to want to remember it. I had to have people in my life that also liked it so we could share the experience of listening to it together. I had to have seen the concert advertised. I had to be able to buy the tickets and finally I had to get there.

If any of those elements didn't exist, I would not have had that life enhancing experience. When you think about it, it's a miracle it happened at all.

So, the moral of this story?

Do stuff!

As often as you can, say yes to just experiencing life whenever you have the opportunity. Fill your life with so many varying aspects that it's almost inevitable that you will have significant events happen in your life. You don't have to know or be sure, in advance, that you will enjoy something before you try it. You visit a place you were told was good, but it disappoints. You try a food you thought you'd like, but it wasn't how you expected. You go to an event, and it's boring. So what? You still have a memory and it could still be something that causes you to laugh or feel happy when you recall it on the future. You have no idea how the smallest little thing can turn into something so huge that it changes your life for the better.

Wouldn't it be great to look back and be able to say "Wow. I've done a LOT of stuff".

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