About a month ago, while running with my iPod on shuffle, I hatched a plan. A crazy one. I decided I was going to choose a song and listen to it every single day for a year. I figured that, if it didn’t put me in a padded room, this
stunt exercise would help me explore the boundaries of how deeply I could connect with a song. Would I grow to hate it? Would I hear things that had previously gone unnoticed? Would it start to seem abstract, like words do when you say or read them too many times? So many questions, but one stood head and shoulders above the rest:
After weeks of careful consideration, I’ve chosen Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” Here’s my reasoning:
- I like it.
In some ways, “Three Little Birds” is more an institution than a song — it’s been covered by everyone under the sun and has appeared in countless movies, TV shows, and commercials (most recently in an episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks and perhaps most notably in I Am Legend). It’s such a fundamental part of the musical universe that it feels almost weird to say I “like” it — sort of like saying you “like” gravity — but regardless, I do enjoy it. What’s even more important, though, is that I don’t love it. I wouldn’t try this with “The Weight” or “Wagon Wheel,” because I wouldn’t want to risk hating them after a year.
- I’ve already heard it a zillion times.
One of my biggest worries was that I’d accidentally pick a song with a bad note or off-key vocal harmony that would slowly and insidiously eat away at my sanity, day after day, wince after wince, until I started hearing the bad note when it wasn’t even playing, Tell-Tale-Heart-style. No thank you. Like most people, I’ve heard “Three Little Birds” more times than I can count, and as far as I can tell, there are no poisonous tones lurking in its waters. (I sincerely hope I didn’t just jinx myself by typing that.)
- I think it can help me.
This one requires a little more explanation.
I worry too much. Always have. I have stories upon stories of childhood anxiety that would make you cringe, and if I’m being completely honest, I never really stopped collecting them. But as ingrained as worrying has been my whole life, I still like to think of myself as an optimist. And it’s with that spirit that I’m hoping I can (forgive the expression) kill two birds and use the framework of this year-long challenge to my advantage, unleashing the psychological power of repetition on a part of my brain I’d like to rearrange. If Britney Spears on repeat can break Gitmo prisoners, why couldn’t Bob Marley convince me to chill the fuck out?
I have no idea if this will actually work — I don’t even know how I’ll know if it does — but I hope you’ll read along as I check in periodically and share thoughts and preliminary findings. For now, I can tell you that I started the challenge yesterday, on my 29th birthday, and I’m more excited than ever to find out what my next trip around the Sun has in store.
Bob Marley — “Three Little Birds” [Spotify/iTunes]
3 thoughts on “1,095 Little Birds”
It’s funny, I listened obsessively to Exodus for years (and then again when the deluxe reissue came out) and I always found that song to be an unexpected success. The tinny piano and synth strings should be a turn off but in the end it’s just so simple and, yes. life-affirming that it’s undeniable. On a more personal note, when my son was being treated for cancer, we had a particularly bad night and that was the song I sang to him every time he woke up in pain. I could sing it without fully waking and the amazing thing was that it WORKED – he would back to sleep after only a minute or two. I call it “pain relief, Jamaican-style.” Happy listening!
That’s amazing. It’s incredible how some of the simplest songs can be the most affecting. I can already tell that it’s growing more and more powerful each time I listen. Thanks so much for sharing.
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