No matter what I was feeling, I could immediately feel better if I put on an REM song. It was comforting, soothing, life-sustaining music. There are songs you like, songs you love. But, if you're lucky, there are also songs that fill you up with such joy and peace that you can make it through anything. I guess I'm explaining something of a religious experience, in the true monumentally restorative sense of the word. Listening to REM changed me on practically a molecular level.
From a musical standpoint, REM is deserving of all the praise that has come their way. What was unique about REM was how they blended so many musical influences to create a sound unlike anyone else before them. They took the idea of the wall of sound from Phil Spector and added the folky sound of Peter, Paul and Mary, with a nod to the guitar grinding rock of the 70s, and with lyrics straight out of a Kafka-bad dream. They were a layered, jangly, country/rock group, with sometimes pointed, often vague, but always mesmerizing lyrics. And as for the voice, Michael Stipe had a way to cut through to your soul.
It would seem disingenuous to say that words fail me, but they do. How can you describe colors to a blind person? How can you explain love? REM's music feeds me a greater sustenance than food. It heals, it soothes, it energizes, it sustains. Knowing that I will never get to experience it live again is like a knife in the heart...only I fear my heart has disappeared.
I'll finish, as you might expect, with a few songs. These are just the ones that I need to hear today and want to share. And as soon as I hear them, I feel better. Not "accepting," but better.
Here's to REM. Thank you for so many years, so much music.