‘Let happiness run under the sun, moon and stars’
There seems to be something universal about the symbolism of the above line. Despite all the distractions of life we inevitably suffer through, the imagery of being connected to those celestial objects is compelling. It does not matter where you live, or what year it is, the lure of the energy they provide has a strengthening power. Whether it is waiting for a day off to ‘catch some rays’, or to get out of the city to more easily see the moon and stars, these ancient forces are a part of our life. They tend to bring us happiness, and for some people they even provide healing powers.
I suppose I am no different in that regard. After the darkness of winter the longer days go a long way towards re-energizing my soul. And boy have I needed that lately. I have not been writing as much as I want to here lately, and my music related posts seem to be scarcer. The cause has not been for a lack of musical inspiration on my part. Over the last few months I have acquired lots of new music I hope will make its way on to these pages soon. It also has not been because I am uninspired with my photography. A new camera and lenses have given me lots of toys to happily play with.
This blog has always being about making a connection between music and my own photography, but I have not been able to pull that off too much recently. Like the last time it happened though, instead of feeling pressured, I just waited until I felt I had something to write. And like some of the best moments I have had since I started writing, it was when a song hit me at precisely the right time.
While enjoying a day off from work yesterday I sat on our balcony reading and relaxing. I had some reggae music on by one of my favorites- the sublime Jimmy Cliff. A year or so ago I wrote about his classic song Many Rivers To Cross here. It is hard for me to adequately express how much his music means to me. He sings of Jamaica. Of hardship and happiness. Peace and poverty. Love and hate. No matter the subject it always comes from a place of love. Live he frequently ends his songs with the words ‘Give Thanks.’ A reminder of what is really important to him and his music.
One perception of reggae music is that it is all about chilling out on a beach with a beer and Bob Marley singing Buffalo Soldier, or Jammin’. I have certainly been guilty of that offense myself. It is easy to get lured by that beat and groove to a state of relaxation. So often though, when you read the lyrics to songwriters like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff the truth really comes out. The songs are quite often very powerful political statements.
Take the Bob Marley songs I mentioned for example. In Buffalo Soldier- ‘Stolen from Africa, brought to America, Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival.’ Or Jammin’- ‘No bullet can stop us now, we neither beg nor we won’t bow.’ When you really learn about the music and the atmosphere it was created under, those good time beach vibes don’t quite feel the same. So while I was sitting yesterday, I realized that the words to Jimmy Cliff’s song Under The Sun, Moon And Stars are no different.
The music might have that relaxed vibe, but the song is actually a bit of a plea and a statement about not living life the way his forefathers did and not accepting it either-
‘My forparents worked, from sun-up, ’til sun-down
Peace could not be found now they’re under the ground
I’ve heard them complain and cried out in pain
Seeking peaceful gain under the sun, moon and stars
I’ve got to be free, I want it right here on earth
Got to have some fun, ‘for my life is done
Let happiness run under the sun, moon and stars’
This idea that I started off with, of a universal symbolism to the sun, moon and stars comes perhaps from my own (mostly) happy life. Once I really listened to the song, I realized that even though we all live under those same elements, our worlds can be vastly different with people not so happy or fortunate. Just like so many other reggae songs, the message comes in an uplifting way however. When Jimmy Cliff sings, even though he sings of hardship and poverty he reminds us we all live under the same sun, moon and stars. No matter who we are, no matter where we come from, no matter what our situation is. We all need to remember that. Give Thanks.
*A note about the photograph. Moon photography is something I have always wanted to try my hand at, but to really do it justice, you need a lot of patience, and some special equipment generally speaking. But one morning a month or two ago, as the sun was coming up, the moon was still in clear view, and the contrast of the dawn colors and the bright moon was too tempting not to take a photo. I’m happy I did! Now how about ‘one more’ from Jimmy Cliff?
I pressed ‘Play’ on my Ipod and this is what I heard…Many Rivers To Cross By Jimmy Cliff
First off, I must apologize for the lack of Photo Shuffles recently. I had planned it to be quick little blogs I could do once or twice a week but recently I seemed to get interrupted which kept me from writing more. However, I do have plans to expand Photo Shuffle in 2016, including opening the idea up to more people to contribute so if you are interested, please let me know.
Since I have not done a Photo Shuffle in awhile, I could not be happier with the selection that came up today by Jimmy Cliff. I have long wanted to write a blog about him and his music. He has long been a favorite, and a few years ago I crossed him off my list of ‘must see’s’ in concert. From his early beginnings releasing singles like Hurricane Hattie and Miss Jamaica in the early 60’s to the years of major success starring in, and contributing to the soundtrack of the Harder They Come right up until 2012’s stellar album Rebirth, Jimmy has never slowed down. Indeed his shows are high energy affairs with him moving around with the energy of a 20 year old. More than that, his music from the beginning has been filled with social concerns and love, which radiates outwardly to audiences around the world. A big reason for the the worldwide popularity of reggae in the late 60’s and early 70’s came from both Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley.
Many Rivers To Cross, one of his signature songs is something more though. It is a song born of loneliness, sadness, anger, confusion and loss. Despite all of those things, there is an ever so slight hint of hope- “and I merely survive because of my will”. Combining that with the imagery of many rivers to cross “but I can’t seem to find my way over” is powerful. Many of us lead our lives with emotional baggage or disappointments of some sorts, yet we press on. We keep searching, we keep trying new things. The reason I thought this was a particularly apt song for today is because we are about to head into a new year. For most people that means resolutions and goals to set and a hope for a better year than the previous one. Though we often only attain a few of the goals we set, when the next year comes around again we still try. We may not cross the rivers of our hopes, we may wander and become lost but we still try to get closer to the other side somehow. There might be new challenges, and new problems, but we keep going, one river at a time.
Happy New Year Everyone. As Jimmy Cliff says, Blessed Love!
Many Rivers To Cross-Written By Jimmy Cliff
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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle
*Photo Shuffle is a new, very short slice of my regular blogs based on setting my Ipod on shuffle and matching up one of my photographs to whatever comes up.