Sage Advice in (Almost) Five Songs

July 2018

July Recommendations for What to Listen to

Larry “Mud” Morganfield performing at a recent concert. (Photograph by Bob DiRenzo)

Need a calming distraction from daily annoyances? Science reveals that listening to music can benefit our physical and mental health. Beyond the fact that structures within music can help to communicate happiness or sadness, a tune’s lyrics can further influence a listener’s emotional state … and offer some really good advice about life and business. Here are my picks for lyrics that encourage a different future action.


#1    Forget the dark side of the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and instead focus on this excerpted recommendation for embracing a Plan B: 

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need”

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
Songwriters: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
Performed by: The Rolling Stones
Copyright © 1969 Decca Records/ABKCO


#2    Her tumultuous personal life aside, Billie Holiday created an anthem for self-reliance in the song “God Bless the Child.”

“Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own
He just worry ‘bout nothin’
Cause he’s got his own
Yes he’s got his own”

“God Bless The Child”
Songwriters: Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr.
Performed by: Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra
Copyright © 1942 Okeh


#3    In 1968, during a strained period for the fab four (The Beatles), Paul McCartney dreamt of his deceased mother, Mary. In his dream, his mother doled out great advice to the star: “Let it be.” The lyrics remind us that walking away from something can be a good thing.

“And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow
Let it be”

“Let It Be”
Songwriters: John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Performed by: The Beatles
Copyright © 1970 Apple


#4    Co-writer George Weiss penned the iconic ballad “What a Wonderful World” with singer Louis Armstrong in mind. Weiss was inspired by Armstrong’s ability to bring people of different races together. In a word, the song is lovely. Take the time to listen, and you will feel relaxed and hopeful.

“I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do
They’re really saying, I love you

“I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more
Than I’ll never know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world”

“What a Wonderful World”
Songwriters: Bob Thiele (as “George Douglas”) and George David Weiss
Performed by: Louis Armstrong
Copyright © 1967 Memory Lane Music Group, Carlin Music Corp. and BMG Rights Management


Larry “Mud” Morganfield weighs in on my song request. (Photograph by Bob DiRenzo)

#5    During an intermission at a music venue, I recently asked Larry “Mud” Morganfield, eldest son of influential blues legend Muddy Waters, to offer a suggestion to round out my list to five songs containing sage advice in lyrics. The blues singer replied, “That’s a hard one … it’s impossible. I have so much music in my head … I can’t pick just one.” I rattled off the titles of songs I’d chosen already along with the reasons I had selected them and his harmonica player chimed in stating, “You’ve got it covered … right there.” That evening, Morganfield went on to sing some of his famous father’s hits including “Trouble, No More” and “I Be’s Troubled”—a song that’s been covered by 54 recording artists.

Happy listening,

—Maureen Joyce