Peter Gabriel’s “So” — change is coming down like red rain

The text below (with some new edits) was posted as a link on my Facebook profile a week shy of three months ago. I’d just returned from a nearly 3 month-long road trip through the western US, preceded by 2 months in Australia. The story it tells begins to describe the unusual relationship I have with music. Yes, it’s my muse, as this site’s title insists, a source of inspiration and insight. Even more than that, there’s a mystical timeliness to the way songs appear in my life, an undeniable synchronicity often accompanied by portent, a message or significant meaning.

Some music…well…some music reaches out to you in times of need. This album, So, has accompanied me through some of the biggest changes in my life. When my first significant relationship failed explosively, it was there, in the car tape deck, as I drove away in grief. When she and I crossed paths a year later, and found in just a few moments a peaceful, loving closure, it was the unwitting hand of a dear friend, Monica, which later that evening pulled So from the depths of the glove box where it had lain, unplayed — too painful to play — for most of that year and returned it to the tape deck. Red Rain. It was cued to Red Rain.

Red Rain is, for me, among the most powerful musical laments. I don’t really pay much attention to the lyrics of this song, other than the painful cry of, “Red rain is pouring down, red rain. Red rain is pouring down all over me.” In the aftermath of that breakup, the red rain was tears, anguish, pain, the sense of betrayal and loss, the tumult of a world turned upside down.

I cried out that chorus, with my voice, with my heart, with my mind, with my soul.

“I’m so sorry!” Monica apologised, after I explained its significance, “I’ll take it out.” I shook my head and smiled. “No, it’s OK now,” explaining the chance meeting, and how that reconciliation transformed the meaning of this music for me. “Now I hear the beauty of it again, even through the pain…no, it’s more beautiful for having experienced the pain.”

It came again, a few years later at the end of my father’s funeral service. My brother-in-law started the car and the radio piped in with Red Rain, cued up, just for me. There it was, change…grief, pain and beauty again, another transformation.

“So” is my music of transformation. It’s no surprise that it comes to me as I return home from this extended journey of nearly 6 months. There’s been pain, as not all that I’d hoped and dreamed came to be. But there has been so much beauty, so much change, so much growth and learning, and love and loss, and you can’t experience these fully, completely, without also experiencing the pain and grief that comes your way.

Now, when I hear the music from this album, it reminds me; pain, grief, love, beauty: these are all the exquisite experiences of living, not just of being alive — any fool can do that — but of really grasping life. To truly live requires allowing yourself to feel and experience all these and more, and find the beauty in them.

Music: my muse. Music: the messenger. Music: my spirit-guide.

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