The 2023 A-to-Z blogging challenge theme is resilience. Resilience is the ability to get back on our feet and keep going after life knocks us down and kicks sand in our faces. Resilience is how the psyche survives and copes, but resilience doesn’t necessarily wear a cape of positivity.
The 26 songs I’ve chosen show us, musically, what resilience looks (sounds?) like. I’ll offer a reflection of the resilience in each song. The songs are alphabetical by the artist’s first name or the group’s name, except for M, O, U, and X.
V is for Village People and Y.M.C.A.
The American disco group Village People released Y.M.C.A. in 1978. This quote from Wikipedia says much about the song:
“Y.M.C.A. is No. 7 on VH1’s list of The 100 Greatest Dance Songs of the 20th Century. In 2020, Y.M.C.A. was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’. In its official press release, the Library noted that ‘back in its heyday, Y.M.C.A. was a hit around the world, going to No. 1 on the charts in over 15 countries, and its ongoing popularity is evidence that, despite the naysayers, disco has never truly died’.”
Y.M.C.A. is controversial to many, an anthem for some, an earworm of monumental proportions to just about everyone (me included) and, in the spirit of such songs as Macarena, The Chicken Dance, The Time Warp, Conga, The Twist, Cotton-Eyed Joe, and The Hokey Pokey, it’s a song that prompts listeners to get on their feet and groove with the specific moves that accompany those particular songs.
I’ve established that Y.M.C.A. has its own dance movements and qualifies as an earworm song, but what does it have to do with resilience?
A lot, in fact.
Part of resilience is to learn to accept help when its offered and to ask for help when its needed (self-care), because we grow emotionally when we learn those two important skills. Both are survival skills that don’t come easily. We also tend to want to help others learn those skills that we, ourselves, probably struggled to learn.
The narrator has encountered a young man in need, and he sees himself in that young man. He recognizes the young man doesn’t know where to look for help, and that he’s unwilling to ask for help or to accept help, from anyone, and especially from a stranger.
The narrator approaches the young man…
Young man there’s no need to feel down
I said young man pick yourself off the ground
I said young man ’cause you’re in a new town
There’s no need to be unhappy
Young man there’s a place you can go
I said young man when you’re short on your dough
You can get yourself clean
You can have a good meal
Still, the narrator is a stranger, and the young man is dragging his feet to reach out and grasp the metaphorical helping hand the narrator is extending. The narrator says, in essence, ‘Look kid, I get it. You want to do this yourself. You want to be independent. Well, I’ve got news for you….’
No man, does it all by himself
I said, young man, put your pride on the shelf
And just go there, to the Y.M.C.A.
I’m sure they can help you today
The narrator really wants to help the young man. He empathizes with the young man’s continuing hesitation to accept his advice, but he’s not giving up. I envision the narrator taking a deep, sympathetic breath, clapping the young man on the shoulder, leaning in, and admitting…
Young Man, I was once in your shoes,
I said, I was down and out with the blues
I felt, no man cared if I were alive
That’s when someone came up to me
And said young man take a walk up the street
There’s a place there called the Y.M.C.A.
They can start you back on your way.
The narrator is paying-it-forward. Someone helped him learn the resilience lesson of accepting help when he needed it, and it made a positive difference in his life. He’s now offering that same gesture of humanity to the down-on-his-luck young man.
Dipping into our own resilience well of strength, knowledge, and compassion and then pouring it into the resilience well of those whose resilience is running on empty is resilience doubled.
A bit of fun trivia from Wikipedia (even if none of this is true, it’s a fabulous urban legend):
“…The dance originated on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. The group performed the song during the January 6, 1979 episode. Clark then said to [lead singer Victor Willis] Willis that he would like to show him something, playing the song again with the audience doing YMCA hand gestures. Willis immediately picked up on the dance and mimicked the hand movements back at the audience as other Village People members stared at him with puzzled looks. Clark then turned to Willis and said, “Victor, think you can work this dance into your routine?” Willis responded, “I think we’re gonna have to.” In a 2008 retrospective article for Spin, Randy Jones has opined that the dance may have originated as a misunderstanding: the group’s original choreographed dance had the group clapping above their heads during the chorus and he believes that the audience, believing them to be making the letter “Y”, began following suit…”
*Image: © Can Stock Photo / PixelsAway Win-Win Concept on Blackboard
Until next time,
writing through history one romance upon a time
I love this post, you know I’d never realised the meaning behind the lyrics until now, so thank you.
I think the lyrics are under appreciated, too.