I was cleaning out my closet when I came upon a carefully folded envelope with a two page letter inside. It was a “goodbye” letter from my mom, given to me a year before she died. I was moving across the country and she wanted to give me some encouragement. In the wake of her death three years ago, it reads with a little more gravity.
I’ll spare you the details of her letter, the hot tears hitting the paper, and the way I crumpled on the floor as I read it. The most important thing is that her words resonate even stronger now. I’m finally at a point in life where I feel confident that I’m a positive force for other people, that I’m self sufficient, and that I’m a decent person. Maybe even a good person.
At that moment, a song popped into my head. Give A Little Bit, by Supertramp. The band was a rare and strange force in my childhood, crafting the kind of music that would occasionally result in goofy grins and loud singalongs on the road. Their slick breed of theatrical rock was perfect for a young boy in the 1980s, sitting in the backseat of his mom’s two door Oldsmobile, belting along to lyrics he couldn’t possibly understand.
The often subversive, political, satirical song meanings flew over my head until I returned to the band as a teenager, but this tune always struck me hard. Funny enough, it wasn’t just the fact that I could understand the words as a 7 year old; it’s a simple love song, perhaps the most guileless recording of the band’s entire catalog. What really drove me was that anthemic rush, right as the chorus hits dead center of the song. There’s a lengthy buildup of yeah yeah yeahs that blur into a singular tone, and a saxophone curls in for a miniature solo, then BAM! The moment hits with that powerful but surgically clean studio sound that the best 1970s studios perfected. Every little bit matters.
I just so clearly recall that lightning-bolt feeling, straining against the seatbelt with so much sudden energy and enthusiasm for life. I could punch through the roof and fly if I just tried! It’s an awesome feeling to recognize and grasp those moments in music at such a young age. When you’re that old, corny doesn’t exist and everything is new.
As I age, it gets harder and harder to feel something as strongly as I felt listening to a pop song in the backseat of my mom’s car. Those supernovas of feeling belong to legitimate, big-deal life events now.
The connection still lives, though. When I listen to certain songs, I’m hit with the very heart of what makes nostalgia so powerful for everyone. This music comes paired with distinct memories from early childhood to my mid thirties; the simple fact of time makes moments like this an extreme rarity. There just aren’t many things from my childhood that tunnel through into now with such force and clarity. So even if it is a silly, corny love song, Give A Little Bit means a lot to me.
I thought I’d include a picture of the band because they look how I feel right now, I guess. Funny, vulnerable, weird. I’ve always felt like a dork inside and I’ve probably got two things to thank for that: my childhood love of bands like Supertramp, and the fact that my mother called me a dork pretty often. It was an affectionate rejoinder, said in reply to my often smartass commentary. We always had a sense of humor between us, a morale sustaining force if there ever was one. I’m happy to carry that on.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’re enjoying the song.