Songs That Help Us Remember

Remembering the past is one of the things that binds us together. Several times a year we take a moment, an hour, or a day to recall significant events. They may be personal or part of the shared history of a nation.  Some are joyous, some impossibly sad.

How much help could a song be?
After the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010, as we watched scenes of devastation, loss of life, and the strength of these people faced with such immense challenges, I suggested that songwriters express their feelings about what they were seeing through their art.  I wrote this on my Facebook page and was quickly criticized by someone who felt that this was self-indulgent, even useless. I wasn’t suggesting that writing a song should take the place of hard work or much needed donations. I was thinking of the long haul… I was thinking about remembrance, about never forgetting.

Today is a day of remembrance. We take time to think about the human cost and the courage of those who lost their lives in New York on September 11. Now, over a decade after those events, one of the things that brings those memories back for me with the most intensity is a song written by my friend Bridget St. John. The song is called “The Hole In Your Heart” and its expressive beauty never fails to recall the emotions of that day and the ones that followed. Bridget wrote it to express her own feelings but it speaks for many. 

We sometimes forget…
There have been disasters we no longer remember. Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” recall events that could slip from our minds too easily. These are story songs that recall specific events. But a song like Bridget’s speaks for all those times when we gather together to grieve for something lost.

A song can speak for many people
As songwriters we have the ability to express not only our own emotions, but the power to speak for all and to bring people together in a shared communion of spirit and feeling. Writing a song is not the only response to tragedy but it may be one of those that lasts the longest and in the end keeps knowledge and hope alive.

Write your song: Write a song that expresses how you feel about an event you want to remember. Simple and honest is the best place to start. Just say what you feel and trust that there are others who feel as you do. Listen to Bridget’s song in the video below for a great example of the power of simple chords and honest lyrics.

Written by Robin Frederick

September 11, 2013

“The Hole In your Heart” Bridget St. John 2012

Author: Robin Frederick

Robin Frederick is the author of Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV. She has written and produced more than 500 songs for television, records, theater, and audio products. She is a former Director of A&R for Rhino Records and Executive Producer of 60 albums. Visit Robin's websites for more songwriting tips and inspiration: www.RobinFrederick.com and www.MySongCoach.com.