I spent about 30% of 2020 in the hospital. (I did the math.) For most of that time, I was by myself because of ever-changing visitor policies. While I usually prefer to be around friends and family, being alone is really the only time that I can listen to music with the focus and intensity that I like.
Most people I talk to find it strange, but I can listen to a song for 15 or more times in a row. When I have my headphones on, you might as well not talk to me because I’ll be the zone. The first couple of times I listen to a song, it’s to jam out or dance along, just feeling the beat. On the next few plays, I might listen to the lyrics. On the last listen, I’m listening to the instrumentals. Maybe listen #12 is me just listening to the drums, and maybe #18 is trying to pick out the quiet bass line in the background.
A truly good song is one that you can listen to many times. A song with hidden treasures. And if you truly listen, all of the treasures are there for you to uncover. One of those songs I want to mention is Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing by Tori Kelly. Originally a Stevie Wonder song (one of my favorite songwriters of all time), I didn’t know I could ever like a cover of one of his songs better than the original. Tori Kelly’s version of it doesn’t stray very far at all from the original in terms of the arrangement, but her voice adds an energy that picks up my mood whenever I hear it. I have suffered from anxiety since I was very young, so I love finding one of those songs, movies, or TV shows that just take my troubles away for a bit. I can’t be anxious listening to groovy music with Tori’s powerful voice telling me not to worry about anything.
When I was at the hospital and had free time, I did my normal listening routine and listened to that song on repeat. I just about have all of the parts memorized in my head…the piano, the drums, the trumpets, and even all of the vocal riffs. Listening to intricate vocals gave me something to do while I was lying in my hospital bed. I imitated her notes slowly, and then sped up until I nailed them. Since she’s an insanely talented singer, I didn’t nail them very often, but I definitely improved my singing by practicing her songs. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing is a song I can sing along to, dance to, and use as an escape. When I listened to it, I could forget about the nasty medications that I would have to take that day. I could forget about my looming stem cell transplant. But I would remember how it feels to experience pure musical joy.
By Sara Carreras