I’m doing a funeral next Monday. I didn’t know one of the songs they want, so I when I got back from seeing them I called up my faithful friend Spotify and played it through to get acquainted. And to get the running time, of course.
As the song began to play, the written words I had worked so hard to assemble shrunk into a feeble huddle. The power of music is great. Even to an unmusical person like me.
Like many celebrants, I can no longer listen to songs that were played at particularly sad funerals.
I reflected on this at the weekend when out motoring with the missus. Her in-car wireless was set to Smooth or R2 or something like that (all the presets on mine are tuned to R4), when Whitney Houston came on singing I Will Always Love You. I gently turned it down for the duration.
The lyric was completely unsuited to the sentiment that the wife of the man who had died wanted to express – a common problem with funeral songs. It didn’t matter at all. All that mattered was that refrain: I will always love you. And it tore at our hearts as we sat and listened. Even mine. How much greater was the effect on those who experience music in the fullness of its power?
And I wondered, as I tried to dismiss the memory of Whitney from my ear, whether this isn’t something people need to think about – that there’s a difference between a song which is cathartic and one which is emotionally inflammatory.
Or is there?