by: Lindsey Dietzler
Music has the capacity to console us, to heal us, to inspire us. It invites us to listen, to dance, to explore ourselves, to watch, to participate. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– music saved my life, and not just on one occasion. Without it, I wouldn’t have made it through the toughest moments in my life or the greatest transformations for that matter.
Music is one of the most powerful art forms. It can alter our mood almost instantaneously. You are walking through the grocery store, maybe having a bad day, feeling blue or just blase. A song that you love, that makes you happy comes on over the speakers and the next thing you know, you are singing and dancing up and down the aisles. It has the power to change the ways in which we view and interact with the world around us.
When I was seven, at the beginning of my nearly two decade obsession with Madonna, my mom and her best friend took me out one night. They wouldn’t tell me where we were going but I loved surprise adventures so I couldn’t wait for the ride. We drove for what seemed like days before approaching the Rosemont Horizon. The sign proclaimed brightly “MADONNA: Blond Ambition Tour.” I looked longingly out, palms pressed against the window wishing I could be inside. And then my mom took the next exit. It all seemed so surreal, to happen so fast, and I remember thinking there was no way this was actually happening. It wasn’t until we were in the parking lot that I allowed myself to believe I was about to see Madonna live.
I was mesmerized by the sheer scale of the arena. As we climbed the stairs to our seats, I could feel the anticipation rising from my stomach to my throat. I waited. And waited. And waited. When you are seven, an hour feels like an eternity when you are excited. Finally, the lights went down, the music started and Madonna took the stage, opening her tour with “Express Yourself.” I’m pretty sure I cried through most of the show, but what stands out to me the most is my memory of her closing number, “Keep It Together.” She asked the audience to clap along with their hands held high over their heads and as my arms grew unbearably tired, I knew I had to keep clapping because she had just given so much of herself to us over the last two hours.
Seeing live music at such a young age, especially the incredible and historical spectacle that was the Blond Ambition Tour, gave me an early appreciation for the art of performance and began my lifelong love affair with music. I understood that what was happening in that room, was a communication between artist and audience, that we needed Madonna just as much as she needed us. She was using her body, her voice, her energy to entertain and galvanize us.
Music in the melodic sense, can have a powerful influence on the body. Without noticing, our bodies slowly react to the different instruments and sounds– our heads begin to nod, we tap our feet to the beat. Our bodies want to move, to express our emotions physically. Dance is one of the earliest forms of culture preceded only by the music that inspired it. Humans have been using our bodies for thousands of years to communicate what our words might otherwise fail to, to release tension that might otherwise linger, to share the deepest parts of ourselves that might otherwise remain hidden.
My love of music and passion to see live bands grew exponentially after seeing Madonna. Once I got a car, I was going to two, sometimes three shows a week. Nothing was as exhilarating as gathering in a venue with my friends, and singing our hearts out to our favorite songs. Expending that kind of energy not only brought us closer together, it brought us closer to the music, the lyrics, the artists. I felt deeply connected to this community of musicians and people like me, who without this music, would find it difficult to survive.
As important as music is to moving the body, lyrics are equally important to enriching the soul. A truly great song doesn’t just have a catchy melody, it challenges us to look at ourselves, our relationships, our surroundings. It gives us the words to say what we were afraid to say or maybe don’t know how to say. Great song lyrics, like great poetry make us feel contemplative, understood, invigorated. They evoke our passion, our sentiment, our vulnerability. They can help point us toward answers to some of life’s most perplexing questions.
We all have those songs that still carry a certain weight from a particular time in our lives. We tether specific memories, places and people to music. It digs deep into our souls, latches onto our hearts and takes us to places we may not have even known we could go. We hear particular songs and are instantly transported to another place and time. We reconnect to old memories, old friends, old heartaches.
I have found myself having a sustained love and passion for music throughout my life, unlike anything else. I started organizing local punk shows with my friends nearly ten years ago, in an effort to create some sense of culture in the banal suburban sprawl of Lake County. On the weekends we took over local VFW halls and civic centers, creating a DIY community and family centered around local music. Nowadays, I am part of a collective called Subject to Change, which fundraisers for a new organization every month doing important work within the Chicago queer community. As resident DJ Panakin Skywalker, I am able to share my love of music to get people moving on the dance floor and to support the awesome work other folks are doing.
When I think about how many songs have changed my life and how many more songs I haven’t heard yet that will do the same, it is inspiring to say the least. There is a song for every mood, emotion or experience. No matter what you are feeling, there is a song out there that you can relate to, that you can connect to, that can carry you through. There is a song that will follow you into the darkness and hold you there long enough to see the light. There is a song that will grab onto that light and become your new anthem as you transform and grow. There is a song that will incite your body to move, letting you shake out what’s left.
Music has always been there for me and always will be, at least until my hearing fails me. It will continue to help me express myself, challenge myself, and learn to understand myself better. It will be there to share in the most dismal moments as well as the brightest. It will continue to help me connect to other people and experiences in more profound ways. And that is why music is the greatest love I have ever known.