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Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Hero Lies In You

I am one of those people who can't imagine a world without music. I mean, if you took away every compact disc, concert ticket, and musical instrument in the world, I would find it to be such a bleak place. I really do consider music to be a universal language of sorts. Every song tells a story, every music video paints a picture, and every artist has had life experiences that they have shared through the gift of lyrical composition. I don't care if a song is an instrumental, or sung in English, French, Japanese, or Pig Latin. As long as it's got the power to make you move and the ability to make you think, then I would consider it a success.

And you know, even in today's pop charts, there are rare nuggets of beauty amidst the sea of mediocrity. I mean, just listen to any of the songs recorded by Lorde. I still have a hard time believing that she is still too young to legally drink in Canada!

Though, I will say that while this Sunday Jukebox isn't about Lorde, it is going to be a celebration of the best of the pop music charts.  Well...the best of pop charts throughout modern history, that is.

I suppose that for this whole year, I'll be adding a little bit of a Tuesday Timeline twist to the Sunday Jukebox entries.  So from now until the end of the year (unless some huge news story that is music related takes percedence), I'll be using the Billboard Hot 100 charts from years gone by and selecting one song that was #1 on the charts during this week in history.  Now, granted, some of these former #1 songs are still just as fantastic years later, while others are memories of novelty fads that just didn't last.

(I'm looking at you, #1 song of 1996.  Seriously, how the hell did the "Macarena" stay on the top of the charts for fourteen weeks?)

Anyway, for today's blog entry, I thought we'd take a trip back in time to January 1994.  And, 1994 was a rather interesting year in the world of music, as we had a little bit of everything reaching the top of the charts that year.  We had songs by Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Sting, Celine Dion, Ace of Base, R. Kelly, All-4-One, Lisa Loeb, Boyz II Men, and Ini Kamoze all topping the charts that year.  

Though, to be fair, the Rod Stewart/Bryan Adams/Sting thing were three artists recording one song.

But as the year 1994 kicked off, we were listening to the last songs of 1993.  And, as it so happens, this song was actually #1 in two separate years.  It hit the top of the charts on December 25, 1993, and remained on top until mid-January 1994.  And while these days, the singer of this hit is more well known for being Nick Cannon's wife and the sworn enemy of Nicki Minaj, twenty years ago she was one of the most respected female musical artists of the decade.  And I have to say that of all the #1 singles she's had over the last two and a half decades, this one is probably my favourite - not so much because of the music, but because of the message that the song provides.

ARTIST:  Mariah Carey
SONG:  Hero
ALBUM:  Music Box
DATE RELEASED:  October 19, 1993

Now, there's an interesting story that I have to share with all of you before we get into the discussion about this song.  It was not actually meant to be a song that Mariah Carey was supposed to sing.  It was actually written by Carey and Walter Afanasieff for former Miami Sound Machine frontwoman Gloria Estefan.  Now, while I do believe that Gloria would have done a great job with this single, I honestly can't see anyone else other that Mariah Carey singing this song.  Even more interesting trivia about this was actually considered to be used for the 1992 motion picture, "Hero", starring Geena Davis, Dustin Hoffman, and Andy Garcia, but at the last minute, Mariah decided that she would keep the song herself for her "Music Box" album.  So, after a little bit of tweaking (not to be confused with twerking), Mariah came up with what would be the final product.

Of course, Mariah didn't exactly want to commit to recording the song.  At least, not initially.  At the time, she was encouraged by her then fiance and head of Sony Music Entertainment Tommy Mottola to take the song for herself after hearing her singing it in rehearsals and thinking that it was too good a song to be used for a film soundtrack.  Maraih was hesitant, especially since the original lyrics of the song were considered to be a little too schmaltzy for her.

However, when Afanasieff encouraged her to take the song and make it a personal statement about herself, it persuaded her to not only keep the song, but to change the lyrics around a smidgen to better suit her.  And, considering that it was a #1 hit for four weeks, I do believe she made the right call.

And, when you think about those lyrics, it could not only apply to Mariah's own life, but to mine, yours, and everybody's.  Confused yet?  I'll explain it all in a bit.

Although Mariah Carey herself would likely tell you that the song "Hero" is not her favourite song that she's ever worked on, I think that over time, it grew on her...particularly since her fans always requested that she perform the song on every single one of her concerts.  She also received dozens of fan letters and postcards from fans explaining how the song "Hero" had changed their lives and how in some rare instances, the song actually saved their lives.  And, in all of my years of listening to Casey Kasem's Top 40 radio show, I seem to recall "Hero" being played during the request and dedication portion of the program dozens of times.

But you know, I could go on about how impressive the song is, but I think I'll let "Hero" co-writer Walter Afanasieff say it in his own words, as seen in an interview he did with journalist Fred Bronson.

"One person could say that 'Hero' is a schmaltzy piece of garbage, but another person can write me and say, I've considered committing suicide every day of my life for the last ten years until I heard that song and I realized that after all I can be my own hero, and that...that's an unexplainable feeling, like I've done something with my life, y'know?  It meant something to someone.  

Author Darlene Wade also weighed in with this observation about "Hero".

It encourages you to know the hero within.  I call it the 'Spirit of God' that dwells within me.  I believe we are all born with the hero status down on the inside of us.  We spend too much time looking for a hero, and when our hero lets us down, we get angry, depressed, and feel betrayed.  The problem is that all people are subject to error, no matter who they are, no matter how anointed they are, or what the call is on their life."

And certainly the lyrics of "Hero" are extremely powerful and moving.  And, I really particularly love the message that "Hero" presents, which is that everyone has it in them to be a hero in some manner.

I mean, certainly there are everyday heroes in all of our lives.  The volunteer firefighters who take time out of their days to put out fires before they cause too much damage.  The teachers who go above and beyond to make sure that their pupils learn valuable lessons both in and out of the classroom.  Even parents can be considered heroes in the eyes of their children.

But ultimately, we all need to understand that we all do things in our lives that make us heroes in some form.  Sometimes it might seem like an impossible dream to even look at yourself as a hero making a difference in the world.  Certainly I've had many moments of this in my lifetime.  I mean, sometimes I question the path I have gone down thus far and wonder if I made the right choices.  Sometimes I feel like I'm not making a difference to anybody's life the way I am right now.  And, yes, there was that one time in which I was probably one of those people that songwriter Walter Afanasieff was describing in his interview with Fred Bronson.

But then again, there are also times in which I have felt like I have made a huge difference in people's lives.  I've taken part in charity events, I've learned not to be so hard on myself (well, okay that is currently a work in progress, but at least I'm owning up to it), and I'm starting to realize that not everyone in the world is out to get me, but instead want to help me become someone better.  But of course, I have to do all the hard work myself.  But I suppose it's worth it.

It's funny, though.  I never saw myself as a "Hero".  And, some days I still don't.  But maybe we're not supposed to know how being a hero really feels.  Maybe it just happens on its own and we don't even notice it.

Points to ponder this Sunday.

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