Of course Bernard didn’t realise the song wasn’t in his key. None of us did. We didn’t know anything about stuff like that. We always wrote the music first, and what I’d always loved about Barney’s vocals was the unintentional strained quality as he tried to fit into the track. Like Ian, he wasn’t blessed with the world’s best singing voice, but it had emotion, passion, and to me the struggle in Bernard’s voice was a major part of the band’s appeal. (I agree with David Byrne, who said, ‘The better a singer’s voice, the harder it is to believe what they’re saying.’)
Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock; November 26, 1939 – May 24, 2023) was an American-born and naturalized Swiss[a] singer, dancer, actress, and author. Widely referred to as the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll“, she rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue before launching a successful career as a solo performer.
When Joshua Knobe was younger, he knew an indie rock musician who sang sorrowful, “heart-rending things that made people feel terrible,” he recalled recently. At one point he came across a YouTube video, set to her music, that had a suicidal motif. “That was the theme of her music,” he said, adding, “So I had this sense of puzzlement by it, because I also felt like it had this tremendous value.”
This is the paradox of sad music: We generally don’t enjoy being sad in real life, but we do enjoy art that makes us feel that way. Countless scholars since Aristotle have tried to account for it. Maybe we experience a catharsis of negative emotions through music. Maybe there’s an evolutionary advantage in it, or maybe we’re socially conditioned to appreciate our own suffering. Maybe our bodies produce hormones in response to the fragmentary malaise of the music, creating a feeling of consolation.
I’ve always attributed the mood improvement I get when listening to sad songs to some kind of homeopathic response. Like a vaccine, a small dose of sadness immunizes against profound sadness. I find it a powerful effect
Melancholy songs are the closest thing to traveling back in time.
The whole thing when you are sad is that you feel like you are the only one in the world that feels that way. Hearing sad music shows you that you are not the only one and a good song writer can put a positive spin on the whole thing. The idea that there is someone out there who has empathy for the rotten way you feel is uplifting. I’ve experienced this with multiple genres of music from country, folk, and blues to jazz, classical, baroque and renaissance so it’s not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination. Hurtin’ music has no boundaries.
Sad songs do two important things: they put to words feelings one might have been unable to verbalize and they remind us that we are not alone in our sorrow.
One of the first songs I can remember learning well enough to sing was “Jimmy Cracked Corn” or “The Blue-Tail Fly” (its real name); not for 20 years or so did I realize it wasn’t a nonsense song, a kids’ song, but an expression of glee at a slaveowner’s death. What makes the song chilling is that Massa isn’t made out to be wicked; he isn’t characterized at all, except as Massa—reason enough to crack corn in celebration of his demise. A blue-tail fly got him, as the singer details in a series of verses, each followed by the chorus of merriment (“Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care/ My Massa’s gone away”). We don’t know for sure where he’s gone until thc end, when his epitaph is sung. The song was popular in minstrel shows of the 1840s and was handed down for 150 years, transformed into a campfire song for White middle-class kids. Perhaps “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” will be rediscovered In the next century as a cautionary ballad about the need to put on your galoshes.