People want to feel connected. It’s nothing like finding someone you feel connected to, right? A new friend, a co-worker who suffers as much as you do, someone who also plays the saxophone horribly. A connection. Do you have a favorite song, some tune that just hits home, makes your eyes water, makes you feel something?
The other day, my friend Rich Cantu played at Katerina’s, a jazz bar here in Chicago. Rich is known for singing in Spanish and even translating a few lyrics in well-known English songs into Spanish like Hey Jude and Something by the Beatles. He’s also known for singing those classic Mexican songs that make you feel so sad, so sorrowful yet makes you appreciate the beauty that is the song. He sang a few songs by well-known Mexican lyricist José José , someone who he also admires as a vocalist. One of them, if you understand it, chokes you up and makes you want to sob because you know what that guy is feeling and with the kind of voice that Rich has, it transfers through. Toward the end of his set, had parts of the audience rise for an ovation, others whistled and so many (especially with Hey Jude and Something) of us sang those songs.
When we sang Hey Jude, he introduced it like this: “Let’s have a sing-a-long.” After that he said, “Now, we’re going to have a sing-a-long for the [Spanish] speaking folks. And if you don’t know this song, you’re not a [Spanish]speaker.” We sang Si No Te Hubieras Ido by Marco Antonio Solis. When everyone was singing Hey Jude, which was quite loud since everyone there was an English-speaker, people sang their hearts out, eyes closed and all. They knew that song from long ago and they felt the connection with everyone else in the room. It was great.
The last song Rich sang was El Rey by Jose Alfredo Jimenez. The room went crazy, being a predominantly Latino crowd. People whistled, others stood and all of us sang, “Llorar y llorar! Llorar y llorar!” then when prompted “Rodar y rodar! Rodar y rodar!” The English-speakers looked around at the rest of us and smiled in wonderment. They felt our happiness and our admiration for the song. We felt that connection. Because not only was it a song we knew, it was a tie back into the place that we were from. Our roots, our culture, our ancestry came from the same place that the song came from and because we know our roots and our heritage, we also know the song. It was pride and happiness all rolled into one. We applauded and we cheered and we whistled at the end, not just because he sang it amazingly, which he did, but because he chose that song. It is an old classic song that I’ve put up on this blog before in my “Some of the Songs I bump in My Car” blog.
But this thing, it happens all the time. It appears in multiple forms and fashions, but this was one that was most apparent to me. It made me remember that I’m part of something and naturally, as a human, I think it’s all something that we search for.