Barry Manilow’s music seemed to track my life in a most uncanny way. On the same day his song “Could it be Magic” (inspired by Chopin’s Prelude in C minor) was released as a single in 1973, I sold my first advertising jingle to a local park. I was still in college. To this day, it makes me happy to hear his song. After college, I forged a successful career writing commercials and jingles for a major ad agency in Atlanta.
In 1976, Barry wrote a song a song for his grandfather, “This One’s for You.” It is a song that changed my life and gave me hope at the most hopeless time of my life. My whole world was ripped from me when my wife and unborn son were killed by a drunk driver. I dropped out of college and would have been homeless if my mother hadn’t let me live with her for a while.
Suicide was my plan. I had planned every meticulous detail. I would do it deep in the Jersey Pines and there was a good chance that they would never find the body. Done and gone, that was my answer. Maybe I’d see Carol and our unborn son, David, if there were an afterlife or maybe I’d just be gone, dead. Either way seemed to be the only way to escape the pain.
I visited the death site a few times, trying to build the courage to slit my throat. I respect gun ownership too much to shoot myself. Don’t need the anti-gun folks using my dead carcass as some kind of example. Almost did it one day, but each day I got closer.
The spot was a little over an hour from my mother’s house. Listening to the radio in the car on the way there I heard the Barry Manilow song, “This One’s for You” for the first time. It was my story! I missed my wife as much as the man singing the song missed someone. I later learned that the song was about his grandfather, but love, pain and loss are universal, it doesn’t matter who you are missing.
I had to pull the car over to cry. It was the first real cry I had since the awful news came in a phone call from the police a few weeks earlier. I didn’t check the time, but I’m sure I cried for nearly an hour. All the loneliness, the pain and the sorrow came out that day. Once I calmed down, I felt better. For the first time in weeks I smiled, just a little. I cleaned up, turned around and drove back to my mother’s place.
I kept changing stations, hoping I’d hear the song again. I finally heard most of it and had to pull over again. By the time I got home, I was pretty well cried out. I purchased the Manilow album and I listened to it and especially “This One’s for You,” over and over again.
Talk about pulling your head out of your ass. It took a few truly bad jobs, including one at a warehouse. It was there that I learned to drive a scissor lift, a skill that would help me become friends with QVC’s president. (A story for another time.) After a couple of months, I was solvent again.
As things in my life got better, I always came back to the special song, “This One’s for You,” that truly rescued me. Through the years, many of his songs seemed to parallel my life. “See the Show Again” spoke to me when I was flying all over the world for my job. “Lay Me Down,” while he didn’t write it, the passion in his voice carried me through the times when my heart was broken. “The Old Songs” helped when I felt the magic leaving a relationship as did “Trying to Get the Feeling Again.” When I felt guilty for finding happiness after Carol’s death, “Even Now” helped to put things in perspective. “Even now I think about you as I’m climbing up the stairs. And I wonder what to do so she won’t see.” Played that line in my mind’s jukebox more than a few times in my life.
Barry Manilow’s songs aren’t a magic pill that will solve all your problems after listening to a verse, chorus and bridge. The passion in his voice combined with the power of the music and lyrics will help to change the way you feel about things. That will allow you to make positive changes in your life.
If you ever go through some really rough patches, remember that music is a great healer. Your muse might not be Barry Manilow, but there are a lot of songwriters in all genres who have written things that will help. I hope you find them and the peace they can bring.
And remember, there are suicide prevention counsellors who are just a phone call away, regardless of where you live. Help is available!
As for Barry Manilow and his husband, I wish them all the happiness, good health and prosperity his songs have helped me find. God bless you, Barry Manilow!
© 2017 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and reposted on any online site or read aloud on any audio media without the express permission of the author.