2012′s Moments in Music: Hearing Billie Holiday with My Son
You’ll have to forgive me but I’m about to get shamelessly sentimental here…
There are those moments when something you’ve seen or heard or done a thousand times hits you from just the right angle that it becomes new again. When every memory that clouds what it really is falls away and you’re left with something that you’re seeing with total clarity, as if it’s the first time you ever saw it. My musical moment of 2012 was one of these.
It was 3am in April, the air was warm and still and the sky was clear enough that you could see perfectly by the moonlight alone. My wife lay asleep down the hall and I stood in my sitting room cradling my son, barely a month old. Just audible from a pair of speakers in a corner of the room came the sound of Billie Holiday’s Lady In Satin. An album that I’ve known for years, an album that has followed me around but never fully burrowed its way into my skull in the way I’d hoped. But in that moment, I heard in Billie Holiday’s voice what I’d been told I was always supposed to. The vulnerability and sadness, the supreme control that masked the emotion that always threatened to break free. It was like I’d been hearing an eerily accurate impression for years and all of a sudden I’d finally been allowed to hear to real thing in all of its glorious imperfection.
Every moment as the album played was clear in ways it had never been, and with it every thing in the room around me was as well, as though my existence had shifted and I was only now seeing it. And as my son fell as asleep in my arms I was hearing this music in the same way he was: for the first time.