Comfort Music

Some people turn to comfort food when anxiety starts gnawing at the corners of their souls. For me, it’s comfort music. With the practically unlimited resource of streaming music, I’ve been turning lately to the hippie bands I listened to a lot in high school but not much since:

The Guess Who, The Doors, The Moody Blues, The Animals, The Supremes, Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, Donovan, Jefferson Airplane, Yes, Traffic, The Zombies, Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, Phil Ochs, Gil Scott-Heron, Richie Havens and even (god forgive me) Kansas.

Listening to this music is like catching up with an old friend. An old friend who has remained freakishly the same as the world has surged forward recklessly. Although most of these bands were broken up or past their prime by the time I first heard them, their inspirations in the chaotic days of the Vietnam War and the movements for civil rights, women’s liberation, and gay rights, have echoes that are reverberating loudly through the regressive authoritarianism and willful ignorance of the Trump era.

One old group of friends who have retained their sweetness over the years is The Lovin’ Spoonful. There is a naive grace to their lyrics about daydreams, rain on the roof, finding a lover who can be your best friend, the great relief of having you to talk to, and believing in the magic of a young girl’s heart. Their song, “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice,” written by John Sebastian and Steve Boone, gets to the heart of the matter. As I look back at the years slipping away behind me I feel that the most profound experience I’ve known is simple, open-hearted kindness. That, and finding a shampoo that could handle my split ends.

Here they are performing the song in 1965, introduced by Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits: 

You didn’t have to be so nice
I would have liked you anyway
If you had just looked once or twice
And gone upon your quiet way

Today I said the time was right for me to follow you
I knew I’d find you in a day or two
And it’s true

You came upon a quiet day
You simply seemed to take your place
I knew that it would be that way
The minute that I saw your face

And when we’ve had a few more days
I wonder if I’ll get to say
You didn’t have to be so nice
I would have liked you anyway

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