Monday, April 11, 2005

Cryin' Songs

One of the “holy grails” of songwriting is writing songs that make people cry. Now, there are lots of ways to reach someone through music. You can make them dance, make them think, make them feel… In church music, you can bring the Spirit, too.

Bringing someone to tears, though is like ringing the bell. It breaks downs the walls. It’s visible, tangible evidence that you got through to them. People can dance to songs they don’t like. I know. I’ve done it. People will clap for songs they didn’t like. But I’ve never seen anyone cry for a song that didn’t touch them.

There are a lot of other people’s songs that have touched me that way. And as I get older and more sentimental, that list grows.

Lately, “Growing Young” by Greg Simpson has been getting to me.

“Everybody used to tell me big boys don’t cry
But I’ve been around enough to know that that was the lie
That held back the tears in the eyes of a thousand prodigal sons
But we are children no more, we have sinned and grown old
And our father still waits and he watches down the road
To see his crying children come running back to his arms
And be growing young…”

Not long after we lost our first pregnancy to a miscarriage (after trying to get pregnant for 8 years), Border Crossing put out a song called “She Walks With Candles” about the loss that is felt after losing a loved one to cancer. Now, our little child wasn’t a cancer loss, but the sentiments were the same. I had a hard time listening to that one all the way through for a long time.

Border Crossing’s actually done it a couple of times for me. The other one is “The Other Way Around”:

“There’s a girl in California
Who loves to walk the beach
Feel the wind in her hair
The sand beneath her feet
She smiles at the sun
Smell the salty air
But her eyes have never seen
What she knows is there

Sometimes seeing is believing
Sights we’ve already found
Sometimes seeing is believing
Sometimes it’s the other way around…”

While it’s one thing to cry for someone else’s song, and another thing to see someone cry at your song, it’s altogether something else, when one of your own songs makes you cry.

That’s happened to me a few times. There have been two songs that have been so cathartic and cleansing for me to write that after wrenching them out of me, I sat down and bawled. One of those was “Toy Soldiers”. It’s all about the loss of a friendship. When I wrote it, my friend and I had spoken only a few times in several years. We had both apologized for the rift, but it still hadn’t healed. Writing the song helped me to see what I’d really done wrong, and clean it out of me so that I could really ask forgiveness.

I almost didn’t want to record that one because I felt it was too personal. Not that I didn’t want to share it, but I just didn’t think anyone else would relate to it.

“We’ve made our peace but it’s still not the same, now
It seems we’ve lost the chance to compromise
The dice are still and the battle is over
But through it all I’ve come to realize that
I don’t like fighting in real life
I like Toy Soldiers with plastic guns
With painted on anger
And die-rolled explosions
That stop when the game is done
Toy Soldiers are much more fun”

Another one was a big surprise for me. Usually, one expects a tear-jerker song to be slow, soft and dripping with syrupy sentiment.

But one day I was listening to what would end up being the final mix of “Here in Me”. I was at that stage where I keep spinning it over and over, and each time gets a little louder. If you’ve heard it, you’ll know that it’s a driving rocker, that tells how I feel when the Spirit moves me to action.

Well, this particular day, it moved me again, and I sat there with the song blaring in my speakers, tears streaming down my face, my testimony strengthened, and my purpose renewed.

I’m curious, dear readers, to hear your stories of songs that have moved you to tears. What connected you with the song, what made you feel it so much? Post a comment…

Mark Hansen


  1. Oh Mark, thank you for this blog.

    Songs effect me, all the time. Some make me laugh, dance, smile, cry, and some I simply can't listen to anymore, because of the intense feelings they conjure.

    The song you left the lyrics too, about the girl on the beach, made me tear up, just reading the lyrics. I will have to check into that one.

    A few that have really touched me, are "Maybe" by Collective Soul. That is a song about death. Saying goodbye, and the anger you feel when someone departs so ... suddenly, with no explaination. (Or at least that is what that song, says to me)

    "My Imortal" By Evanesence, brings back memories of the "Mothers Room" (the breast pump room) at Primary Children's when Ethan was in the NICU. I can't quite listen to that song. I swear it is a time warp. To a place I don't want to go back to, and feelings I can not yet interpret. I love it, but I can't listen to it yet. At the time, it brought almost comfort to me, everytime I listened it... but now, it eludes to seemingly a lifetime ago, and brings back the heartache that never seems to go away for me.

    When I was eight, I sang "I Am A Child of God" at my grandfathers funeral, and I still tear up when I hear that song, though it is a comforting sorrow. A reminder of those hazy almost dream like memories I have of him, and of that sacred day.

    There is no arguement, that music touches us all, in so many different ways. I love the rythmic beat, the lulling tunes, and the lyrical stories, that songs secernate.

    I am looking forward to exploring the CD you so graciously gave to me, at the confrence this weekend. I will be sure to leave you a comment about it. Thank you so much, for your benignity. You and Jodi, are fantastic, and I am grateful for your friendship.

  2. Oh, one more thing.

    I think it is a miraculous talent to write. The lyrical tales, interwoven with notes and melodies are...sacred, even the light hearted and funny ones. I just shake my head at such a venture. What a gift you have. Thank you for sharing it with all of us, and for braving out into that world, where you put "yourself" out there for everyone to see.

    I think it is a wonderful talent. One I am jealous of. *grin*

    Thanks again.



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