Heartbreakingly Beautiful

I am not a huge Wizard of Oz fan, by any means. I find the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” sung by Judy Garland and others as dreamy, somewhat wistful, and somewhat sappy all at once. I find the medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World” sung by Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo’ole heartbreakingly beautiful. It weighs my heart with sad joy and makes it soar all at once. It has been used with several movies and commercials, and I can completely understand why, as it would lend its qualities to whatever it is coupled with. I first heard it during the credits of the film Finding Forrester, which I enjoyed quite a bit on its own, and stood in the half-lit theater while the credits rolled, soaking it in.
You can hear it on Youtube here over a montage of images of Iz’s life and the spreading of his ashes at sea. Sadly, unchecked obesity led to a short life of 38, though from afar they seem like a happy 38. If you want to hear a cleaner copy of the song, click here. Rhapsody will give you something like 25 free listens when you sign up. While your there, check out Iz’s Hawaiian version of John Denver’s “Country Roads.” Nice.
I have done a Melancholdy/Beautiful post before about songs that make me ache. Do you know the feeling? Do you have a song?
And how nice is the ukulele.

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14 thoughts on “Heartbreakingly Beautiful

  1. Some of these are on the poignant side, others closer to exhilliration…
    (forgive an excessive response)
    “Come Calling” – Cowboy Junkies
    “Freechild” – Must
    “Pictures of Matchstick Men” – The Status Quo
    “Summer Rain” – Johnny Rivers
    “Lakeshore Drive” – Aliotta, Haynes, and Jeremiah
    “Dock of the Bay” – Otis Redding
    “Untitled”- REM (Green album)
    “If You Could Read My Mind” – Gordon Lightfoot
    “Born of Frustration” – James
    “River” and “Tangled Up in Blue” – Indigo Girls live cover
    “Me and Bobby McGee” – Janis Joplin
    “The Only Living Boy in New York” – Simon and Garfunkel

  2. Classical works – shows you don’t need words to express emotion…
    Albinoni – Adagio for Strings
    Barber – Adagio for Strings
    Chopin – just about everything he wrote, all of his Nocturnes would qualify
    Debussy – Clair de Lune
    Elgar – Cello Concerto in E minor
    Schumann – Piano Concerto in A minor
    Tchaikovskly – Violin Concerto in D major
    … just to name a few.

  3. These are the first 10 that come to mind:
    “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday
    “Mad World” by Tears for Fears (the newest version)
    “Bad Dream” by Keane
    “New Slang” by The Shins
    “Unsung Psalm” Tracy Chapman
    “Here I Am” by Emmylou Harris
    “Later Days” Over the Rhine
    “Baby’s Got New Plans” by Alejandro Escovedo
    “Then You’ll See Jesus” by Jacob Wachsmuth
    And a song my mom used to sing to me called “Delta Dawn”.
    Here’s the video for Mad World if you want to see it. It breaks my heart.
    P.S. “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” by Sufjan Stevens is up there too, but I thought 10 would be a good stopping point. I suppose this little post script officially brings my list to 11.

  4. P.S. Neil, I very much agree with your Coldplay selections especially “Don’t Panic”. I was joyed to see “Sit Down” by James from James song on your list. I have checked that James album out from the library an obsessive amount of times.

  5. My Dad singing/strumming ” Girl of the North Country” by Bob Dylon
    “A Night Like This” by The Cure (Robert Smith)
    “Joey” by Concrete Blonde
    “Laurelie” by the Pogues
    “Here I am” by Emmy Loui Harris (I thought of this before I saw your comment Heidi!)
    *(A number of these are melencholy love songs. Hmmmm… )
    My sister Maggie and James singing “Pancho” together
    “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2
    “Hurt” when Johnny cash sings it
    Singing “Precious Jewels” w/ Maggie and my Mom.
    Also, singing “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” w/ Mom, Ab, Mag, and me.
    “Soon and Very Soon We are going to see the King”

  6. Wow, great responses. Unlike last time, I would like to actually try to listen to some or even many of these. Proverbs 14:10 says “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy,” which has always made me rather sad. Rather selfishly, I want people to know, to understand my joys and bitterness, and in my better moments I want to know the same feelings of others. I accept from the verse that we cannot do this on earth even in our closest relationships. Hearing about what songs make people long and ache, though, perhaps mitigates this a little bit.
    Songs from your lists that I know and also love include:
    “The Only Living Boy in New York”
    “Mad World”
    “New Slang”
    “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”
    “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday”
    It is the other ones that I don’t know though, which I would like to know too though. Claire and Heather had a mix CD listening party, which I imagine accomplished some of this, but still ultimately there is not enough time. Ah, time, time, time. What we need is eternity. Will there be I-Pods on the New Earth?
    P.S. I think the Wachsmuth clan needs to hold a musical evening.

  7. Peter, I must confess that I am a bit of a Philistine. I do like some classical music, but have not acquired the discipline to really appreciate it properly. Plus, I am really a words kind of guy generally.

  8. Schmann- concerto in A minor is an AWESOME
    “intro to classical music” piece for us emotional types-
    Another love:
    Saint Saens- Danse Macabre–
    it must have struck a nerve, I first heard in in 5th grade music class- still gives me chills!
    (especially when I imagine the little skeletons and ghosts doing their midnight dance, which is the story behind the music!)

  9. every song on the John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
    “I Fall In Love Too Easily” from Miles Davis-Seven Steps to Heaven
    “Lately” from Stevie Wonder-Hotter Than July
    “You’re A Big Girl Now” from Bob Dylan-Blood On The Tracks
    “Naima” from John Coltrane-Giant Steps
    “Teen Age Riot” from Sonic Youth-Daydream Nation
    I just watched “The Lake House” and heard Brad Mehldau’s “Young at Heart” from Songs: the Art of the Trio Vol.3-totaly meloncoly!
    my dad wrote a song called “Sleep Little Girl” for a friend whose daughter died a few weeks after she was born. It almost always makes me weep. It’s on his Life and Health and Peace album.

  10. oohh…this is fun! what a great post.
    1. “with or without you,” U2…since i was about 13 years old and first heard this song i’ve loved it.
    2. “your friend”, don peris. his music has that quality in unnerving amounts–heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time
    3. bach cello suites in G–“prelude”. this was in the movie “you can count on me”. it is so beautiful and melancholy
    4. “gathering dust” by david gray. poignant and amazing.
    5. “last goodbye” jeff buckley
    6. “the worst christmas ever” by sufjan
    7. “suitcase” over the rhine
    8. there’s something about the “garden state” soundtrack. my friend sarah sent it to me for christmas when i was in india and i started crying because i’d never heard it before but it sounded so much like home.

  11. Ange was the song “New Slang”? Here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24W4J1FjmUQ
    And, you’re right about “Last Goodbye”. I know the song is about romantic love but, Jeff Buckley’s tragic drowning makes the song all the more poignant, like he was saying goodbye to everyone. Jacob told me that he was singing as he died. :(
    Here’s a cold and broken Hallelujah in his honor.

  12. Wow again. See what I mean about needing time, time, time and a really good music library, which theoretically could be accomplished. To really get why we like these, though, to appreciate the diversity, we need something else.
    I am working through some of these on the web, if I can find them for free.
    Angela, I have not listened to much Don Peris or the Innocence Mission, but pretty much everything I have listened to of theirs fits the melancholy beautiful category. I understand about an album or a movie evoking a place, though usually I need to have heard it there first. Off of that album “Such Great Heights” and “Let Go” by Frou Frou/Imogen Heap fit the bill.
    Lindsey, in “Hallelujah,” Leonard Cohen has muddled his Bible stories and some of the lines are rather odd, but it is very moving nonetheless, especially the Jeff Buckley version.

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