notnicolajames

Singer-songwriters, fight to keep your soul!


Whenever a singer-songwriter has increasing commercial success, he starts fighting to keep his soul. Read on to find out why singer-songwriters hope to stay true to themselves by connecting to their “home”.

There is hardly a singer-songwriter who doesn’t have a song about home, as my earlier post discusses. And it really is horrible to be traveling so long that inevitably melancholy kicks in. Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel and many others describe being away from home as cold, lonely, empty and dark.

But singing about home is not just about missing friends and family. It’s not just the desire sleep in your own bed again.

Be at home with yourself

Going home means also to return to your “inner home”: it’s about being yourself, and being accepted the way you are. Simon and Garfunkel describe in Homeward bound how they often just “play the game and pretend”. And Joni Mitchell repeats in her song California again and again that she wants to be accepted the way she is.

Joni Mitchell: California

Oh will you take me as I am?
Will you take me as I am?
Will you?

Fight for your soul

Some singers take this idea further and connect identity, home and “soul”. Carole King feels “chills [in her] soul right to the marrow” when she’s not home. She simply doesn’t feel “right”. Similarly, Ben Harper wants to keep his soul by finding himself a home:

Carole King: Home again

Snow is cold, rain is wet. Chills my soul right to the marrow. I won’t be happy till I see you alone again. Till I’m home again and feeling right.

Ben Harper: Give a man a Home

In a world that is unwhole
you have got to fight to keep your soul…give a man a home

My home – East Germany?

I admit, we can never truly know what the singer-songwriters meant when they wrote their song – and maybe that’s not important. At least we know what we feel when we listen to their tune.

When I listen to my playlist with songs about home, I feel a bitter-sweet longing, yearning, a hope that there is a place (not a specific location) where I can be myself. Not the political science researcher or the journalist. But simply myself.

That’s probably because when I was a kid my family left East Germany (on a special exit permit). After a short stop in some kind of obligatory camp for East German emigrants we moved house several times trying to find a new home. For a while I was not sure if I’m German, East German, West German or what not. When Germany was re-united a few months later, and lots of “greedy” East Germans went to the west to claim their “welcome money“, I started pretending I’m from Bavaria (in the West). Only now I’m telling people that I’m actually from the East.

Check out my list of songs about home in the mixed tapes series.

(Header illustration called “Ozark Lake” was generously provided by my artist friend Kripa Joshi.)

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One thought on “Singer-songwriters, fight to keep your soul!

  1. Pingback: Kiss a sunset pig – why singer-songwriters dream about home « notnicolajames

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