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The Lyric: A Powerful Tool for Change

Sam Trammell '22

My all-time favorite song is “Epitaph” by King Crimson. It was released as a part of their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King in 1969, which has been cited as one of the most influential albums in the progressive rock genre. The track uses a variety of electronic and acoustic instruments to create a haunting, melancholy, and dystopian anti-war ballad. While I appreciate the excellent music and sounds of “Epitaph”, it is the lyrics that have cemented it in my mind.

Despite being a relatively lengthy piece, “Epitaph” doesn't fill much of its runtime with words. What lyrics it does have, though, are packed to the brim with dreary post-apocalyptic imagery that I have never forgotten. Some of my favorite lines are: "When every man is torn apart/With nightmares, and with dreams/Will no one lay the laurel wreath/When silence drowns the screams?". These words have fundamentally changed the way I think and view the world. This is also why I love “Epitaph'' so much and why I consider it to be my favorite: it transcends its limits as a piece of music and has pushed me towards an anti-war mindset.

We often go to literature, film, and television when thinking of media that has the capacity to influence our mindsets, but music easily fulfills that role as well. With this in mind, I asked three people which song lyrics have profoundly impacted them. Reflecting on my own experience, I began to wonder: who else has had a similar experience?

"For me, it has to be from Kanye West's and Kid Cudi's ‘Reborn’," said senior James Walsh. "The repeated phrase 'keep movin' forward,' although simple and maybe a bit cliché, has motivated me at my lowest points. Whenever I'm sleep deprived, not feeling myself, or just consumed by a bout of melancholia, I listen to this song. High school can be a stressful time where we just need to keep moving forward no matter the burdens we're experiencing, and ‘Reborn’ has helped me realize that."

Junior Sam Fulton felt similarly about a very different kind of song. "The Christmas version of ‘Hallelujah’ has spoken to me. The lines 'My sins would drive the nails in You/That rugged cross was my cross, too/Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah' have spoken to me about how powerful the crucifixion was. It made me think about how Jesus died for our sins even though he knew we might not appreciate him. It's a beautiful song, and it's helped me to consider and appreciate my faith even more."

Finally, sophomore Owen Schlehuber offered his input. "I love ‘Man In The Mirror’ by Micheal Jackson, especially the line 'I'm starting with the man in the mirror/I'm asking him to change his ways/And no message could've been any clearer/If they wanna make the world a better place/Take a look at yourself and then make a change.' It's a little long, but it's got a really solid point. It's meaningful because it taught me that the best way to solve a problem is to change some part of yourself. I've started reflecting more on myself because of this, and it's really helped me out."

Looking at these stories, the effect that lyrics can have on people is clear. From motivation to faith to self-improvement, all of these anecdotes tell the tale of a song eliciting powerful emotional changes in its listener. Music has a specific power to resonate with its audience, creating experiences and changes unique to the medium. So the next time you go to a concert, listen to a song in the car, or even watch a music video, try to pay attention to what the song is saying. Who knows: it just might change your life.