“Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I want to get lost in your rock n’ roll and drift away”
I’ve always known this comforting chorus, but I never really connected to Dobie Gray’s 1973 smash hit until recently, when my friend Troy in Glendive requested I play it on my live stream.
I told Troy to pick a song – any song – and I’d play it for him so we could celebrate his recent news of remission.
“I’ve been hearing and feeling it lately,” he said. “There’s something about it.”
Music is the foundation of my friendship with Troy. It all started at Reynold’s grocery store when I complimented him on his Bruce Springsteen “Darkness on the Edge of Town” T-shirt. I told him I was a big Springsteen fan, but Troy was a super fan. He knew every song and every album. Through the years he’d send me iconic live recordings, rarities and underrated albums. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about “The Boss,” a lot about Troy and a lot about life.
So when I asked my friend what song he’d like me to play I was certain it’d be Springsteen. It almost was, as he first suggested “Promised Land,” but he quickly changed his mind.
As I gave “Drift Away” a listen, I tried to think of when I heard it first and couldn’t place it. I feel like it’s always been there, often blaring on oldies radio stations. It’s one of those summertime feel-good jams or wedding reception dance numbers. It’s timeless.
There was one moment that really stuck in my mind, when the song took a new meaning. It was my 21st birthday in Bloomington, Indiana, when the mysterious, always well-dressed Curtis Crawford played a Delta-blues-inspired version of the tune at my party. For the first time I was entranced and captivated by the words. Working on the song for the first time, I thought of Curtis – an older gentleman kind enough to share life experiences and music with– and I thought about why he chose that song that day. I thought about why Troy chose it. What is it about this song?
That’s when the third verse spoke to me.
Thanks for the joy that you’ve given me
I want you to know I believe in your song
The rhythm, the rhyme and harmony
You help me along, making me strong
It was music that strengthened Troy as he fought his way free of cancer, it was the music that helped Curtis get through his hard times and it’s music I find strengthening many of us during this trying time for our world. On Sunday night, as I struggled with the loss of my grandfather to the coronavirus, I turned to Casey and Jeff Sanders’ Joy Valley Hymns live stream. As they sang, “Hope has not abandoned me,” my spirits lifted and sorrow subsided. That’s the beauty of music, be it “Drift Away,” Springsteen, the Sanders’ unique contemporary takes on old hymns or something else. If you’re struggling right now, I encourage you to turn on music that brings you joy, something that frees your soul and helps you along. For me, I’ve been turning to Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need of Love Today,” Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” and The Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine,” but, really, the list is endless. Put on the music that speaks to you. I hope it brings you comfort.
(As published in the Lewistown News-Argus and Glendive Ranger Review)