Here’s some good news about your heart. A recent study found that research subjects’ “blood vessels expanded an average of 26 percent after listening to joyful music for 30 minutes” and that, of course, increases blood flow – a good thing for vascular health. The definition of joyful music doesn’t matter, say the researchers – whatever works for you, personally, does the job.
Here is one that always picks me up, sung by Bette Midler and Bing Crosby a long time ago. [1:47 minutes]
Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen wrote that song in 1944, during World War II when the country had been living through hard times for 15 years.
Much later, when I was in my 30s and 40s in the 1970s and ‘80s, I suffered regular bouts of depression that left me nearly immobile. For the month or so that they lasted, I got to work each day, did the minimum I could manage without losing my job and spent the rest of the time lying in bed with the quilt pulled over my head fighting the dragons of my psyche.
The one relief I could count on was music and when I could drag myself to the phonograph, certain songs raised my spirits. Not enough for me to become social, make a phone call or meet a friend for lunch, but some of the bleak thoughts receded. A lot of what I listened to were popular old songs from my childhood like this one from Peggy Lee which she wrote with Dave Barbour in 1946. [2:26 minutes]
Later, when cassettes came along, I recorded tapes of my happy music so I didn’t need to make the (exhaustive) effort to change records for the individual songs that made me feel better. Nowadays, even with the periods of depression long behind me, I still keep playlists of happy songs on my computer.
This past week, I “lost” an entire day and evening tracking down my happy music online. Most that I used for those private therapy sessions in my past are not available, but I still had a terrific time with what I did find, enough so that there is liable to be a Part 2 and maybe a Part 3 of “happy songs” in future weeks.
Show business songs are a goldmine of happy music and Give My Regards to Broadway, written by George M. Cohan in 1904, is one of the best. This isn’t a favorite version, but it was so much silly fun to see Liberace again, I couldn’t resist. [2:47 minutes]
The Great Depression produced a lot of my happy music – probably written to raise people’s spirits then. (Maybe that will happen again now during our own dark economic night.) This is another written by Harold Arlen (with Ted Koehler’s lyrics), in 1933. Frank Sinatra had a big hit with I’ve Got the World on a String in 1952. [1:53 minutes]
I keep another playlist that is all New York songs, some of which cross over into the happy category. Here’s Frank Sinatra again, this time with Liza Minelli, with the biggest, brassiest New York song of all. [4:53 minutes]
A lot of my happy songs are as big and loud as that one – or are sung by artists with big, booming voices. One of those is Barbara Cook. This is an old song written by Irving Berlin for the 1946 musical, Annie Get Your Gun. [3:01 minutes]
Here is another Depression song that I often ended my private depression music sessions with. There is something about the rhythm that never fails for me. It was written by Irving Berlin for a 1930 movie of the same title, but I was lucky to find the clip of “my” version of Puttin’ on the Ritz by Fred Astaire with his marvelous, perfect dance from the 1946 film, Blue Skies. Times and what America found entertaining were different then. [4:49 minutes]
I have at least a hundred “happy songs” on my playlist, so seven is hardly a representative sample and they are undoubtedly not the same as yours.
So what are your happy songs? Let us know – and play some for yourself today. It will make you - and your heart - feel good.