5 Songs for Springtime

TulipsIn honor of this season, I have five songs to recommend adding to your bag of tricks if they aren’t already there. Add these songs to your “Springtime” playlist, use them to spark conversations with individuals or small groups, or integrate them into large group activities:

1. When It’s Springtime in the Rockies
This song is especially perfect for those of you in the upper Midwest who still have snow on the ground. It’s written from the perspective of a guy in a cozy apartment in the city, thinking about when he’ll be able to travel again to see his sweetheart in the mountains.

2. It Might As Well Be Spring
Listen closely to the lyrics of this Oscar-winning song for a description of spring fever, and use this to start a discussion about signs of springtime. Add pictures of babies in swings, crocuses or rosebuds to add a visual element to your discussion. Sharing the video from the film State Fair is also a great idea.

3. When the Red, Red Robin Come Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along
The red robin might be the most recognizable sign of springtime, so this song fits perfectly with the season. Be ready with this song when you can watch robins out the window.

4. When You Wore a Tulip
Tulips and roses are among the first flowers to bloom in the springtime, so this song also fits with the season. Again, have photos on hand or live flowers indoors or outside the window. (You can read a longer post on this song here.)

5. The Birds and the Bees
Along with a discussion about the birds and bees coming out again in the warmer weather, this song might spark discussions about young love, too – that “spring fever” mentioned above.

These are just a few of the songs that might say “springtime” to your older adults. What other songs are on your springtime list?

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Two Songs for the Holidays: One May Hurt, One May Help

The holidays can be an especially difficult time for those of us who can’t be HOME for Christmas. Sure, home means different things to different people, whether you’re a soldier deployed in Afghanistan, a young worker who can’t afford a plane ticket to mom and dad’s house, or an older woman in assisted living whose home was sold years ago. Wherever home is, though, if you can’t be there for the holidays, it hurts.

Today, I spotlight two songs about being home for the holidays. The lyrics have a similar message – that home is the best place to be for Christmastime – but the emotional underpinnings and context for each song are very different. Let’s compare and contrast these two songs:

320px-Writing_a_letterI’ll Be Home For Christmas

Written in 1943 with lyrics by Kim Gannon and music by Walter Kent, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was a top ten hit for Bing Crosby. It’s sung from the point of view of a solider fighting overseas for World War II. The listener imagines this soldier writing a letter home to his family, painting the picture of  a cozy, traditional family celebration complete with snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree. It’s in the very last line that the soldier admits to his reality: “I’ll be home for Christmas/if only in my dreams.”

The tone of this song is melancholy and wistful. Even if the lyrics seem optimistic on their surface, the music acknowledges what was true for the soldier in the original context, and what is true now for anyone else who can’t get home for Christmas: Sometimes all you can do is imagine the beautiful and perfect holiday that’s happening too far away.

(There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays

Wreath on fence in snowBy contrast, the 1954 song “Home for the Holidays” is pretty darn chipper. With music by Robert Allen and lyrics by Al Stillman, the song first was a hit for Perry Como. Later, The Carpenters and Barry Manilow recorded popular cover versions of this song.

The lyrics of this song focus on traveling home for a holiday celebration. The singer tells us about people traveling from all corners of the U.S. to get home. The song urges the listener to take a bus, a train, an airplane, or even the family car to get there, saying, “for the pleasure that you bring/when you make that doorbell ring/no trip could be too far.” The musical context is upbeat, too. It starts with a sentimental tone in Bing Crosby’s version, then takes on a jaunty and cheerful spirit. There is no mistaking the message here: Home is the best place to be, and if you want to be happy, you’d better get on your way.

Both songs anticipate a picture-perfect holiday celebration to come, but only one expects you to be there for the experience.

Certainly, there is a place for both songs. When you’re in a cheery, holiday mood, it’s wonderful to have cheery music to play and sing. “Home for the Holidays” is on my playlist for decorating the Christmas tree and driving to relatives’ house for holiday celebrations.

If, however, you’re caring for someone who can’t get home to the holiday celebrations they want, or if you can’t get home yourself, it’s worth considering which of these songs may provide comfort and which may cause heartache this year. Perhaps the message of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” can provide some solace.

As the seasons of life come and go, each of us will have times to be home, and times when we are very far away. I hope that we all can find peace wherever we are this year.

Song Spotlight: “If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time”

  • Mood: Humorous, Spunky
  • Theme: Dating, Enjoying Each Other’s Company, Questionable Motives
  • Tempo: Upbeat
  • Genre/Style: Country

Several months ago, when I was visiting my grandfather in the hospital in western Oklahoma, I made a delightful discovery. In this particular moment, Grandpa was in and out of sleep, but Grandma was there, too, along with my mom and my brother, and we really just needed some way to pass the time in the hospital room.

I had brought my guitar along, intending to sing and play some of the old country and Southern gospel tunes my grandfather loved, especially those songs that were popular back when he was playing guitar in a band during his Army service. I asked Grandma and Grandpa what they wanted to hear, but they told me to play whatever I wanted. I tried a couple of old Protestant hymns – “In the Garden” and “The Old Rugged Cross” – but they were a bit too sad right then. Blinking back tears, I decided we needed some upbeat, silly song. A certain Lefty Frizell classic came to mind.

The Song

Lefty Frizzell

Lefty Frizzell

If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time was Lefty Frizzell’s first song to hit number one on the country charts, debuting in 1950. Co-written with Jim Beck, this song comes from the voice of a not-so-wealthy suitor who is more than willing to go out with a date, as long as she can keep paying for the fun. With a tone that is certainly tongue-in-cheek, the singer ends each idea with the title phrase, until he gets to this part:

“If you run short of money I’ll run short of time
You got no more money honey I’ve no more time”

This is no tears-in-my-beer sad kind of country song, which is one reason I enjoy sharing it with folks, especially when it’s time to break down some tension or lighten the mood. (Of course, I would avoid sharing this song with someone who really did have a relationship with someone who just wanted their money.)

This song launched Lefty Frizzell’s successful career in country music. Later, this song hit number one on the country charts again in 1976, with Willie Nelson’s cover version.

Meanwhile, in a hospital room…

I really didn’t expect my grandparents to know this particular song. I honestly thought my grandparents’ interest in popular music stopped in the World War II years (which just goes to show how little even a music therapist might know about their family’s musical inclinations.) But wouldn’t you know that my grandma’s eyes lit up when I started playing this song?

I played a couple of verses, with my grandma smiling, and my grandpa perking up a bit. When I finished singing, Grandma told me that she had that single on a record when she was in college, and she recalled listening to it with her roommate while each of them waited for their dates to call or come by. Of course, at some point, her beau was the man who would become my grandfather.

My grandma neatly avoided telling us any more about her time dating Grandpa, but I cannot tell you how special this moment has become for me. All of a sudden, I had a new image of my grandma – or the young lady I’ve seen in pictures – chatting with a girlfriend and dreaming about that handsome young man I know from a couple of black-and-white Army photos. We had the briefest glimpse into my grandparents’ lives together before any of us were even imagined.

This marvelous musical discovery happened at a time when my grandfather was very weak and tired, just a few weeks before his death, and when my grandma was definitely tired and probably quite worried and in physical pain, although she would never let us see that. Sharing this song was one of those amazing experiences that I had hoped for but didn’t predict. It just goes to show that taking the time to discover those special songs can definitely be worth it.

Ideas For Sharing This Song In Caregiving

Theme – Country Courtship: This song fits well into country music playlists and can spark discussion about the artists (Lefty Frizzell or Willie Nelson) or about going to honky tonks. Some people may have stories about dating and courtship to share, especially if they grew up in the rural areas where this style was very popular.

Theme – Humor: This song would also fit well into a humor theme. Throw in some jokes and some other funny songs for good measure. In fact, I often include this song in sessions for April Fool’s Day. Other complementary country songs may include “Oh Lonesome Me,” “Act Naturally,” and “It’s Hard To Be Humble.”

Drumming: The most helpful aspect of this song’s structure is the last line of each verse, which is split into two parts (“if you’ve got the money honey/I’ve got the time.”) When drumming, split your group in two and have one half play on “if you’ve got the money” and have the other half answer “I’ve got the time.” Encourage groups members to look at each other as they play, like they are having a conversation with the drum.

Movement: You can use the same musical structure described above for movement to music, too, cueing participants to point out for “if you’ve got the money” and at themselves for “I’ve got the time.” Use the rest of the verse to cue other rhythmic movements, making more complex patterns for people who are higher-functioning.

Enjoy!

Song Spotlight: “America the Beautiful”

"O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain"

“O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain”

“America the Beautiful” was first published in 1910 and has remained for more than a century one of our nation’s most beloved patriotic songs. It also has what I think is a beautifully American story.

This song has two stories of inspiration and creation: one for the lyrics and one for the music.

Katherine_Lee_Bates

Katharine Lee Bates wrote the lyrics for this song, inspired by the sights on a cross-country trip.

The lyrics were written by Katharine Lee Bates in 1893. The English professor from Wellesley College took a train trip from Boston to Colorado Springs to teach a summer school session at Colorado College. On her way there, several sights served as inspiration: the White City of the Chicago World’s Fair, the ripe wheat fields of Kansas, and the view of the Great Plains from the top of Pike’s Peak. It was on that mountaintop that Bates began composing her poem, which she finished later in her hotel. Two years after that, the poem was published in The Congregationalist to honor the Fourth of July.

Although several existing pieces of music were adapted to fit the poem, the hymn tune “Materna” by Samuel A. Ward has been the most popular tune for setting this poem, and continues to be the most familiar today. Ward was also inspired to pen his tune, in his case on the ferry from Coney Island back to New York City after a lovely summer day in 1882. As the story goes, Ward was so eager to capture the melody in his head that he wrote it down on a fellow passenger’s shirtsleeve. (Presumably the other guy gave his permission!) Originally intending the melody for the old hymn “O Mother, Dear Jerusalem,” Ward retitled his tune “Materna.”

Samuel A. Ward wrote the music that eventually became the preferred setting for this song.

Samuel A. Ward wrote the music that eventually became the preferred setting for this song.

Unfortunately, Ward died in 1903, years before his melody and Bates’s poem were matched together to become one of the most famous patriotic songs in American history. Bates herself never met Wardl; but she did get to see the popularity of her song firmly established by the time of her death in 1929.

There are many reasons to love this song, especially for its American-ness.

  • The composers represent at least a small part of our nation’s diversity. Yes, they were both privileged white folk from the East Coast, but it is no small thing that one of the nation’s most beloved patriotic songs was written by an educated woman who never married (a “free-flying spinster” according to one friend) and a church musician who was the last in an unbroken line of men named Samuel Ward, the first of whom was a representative to the Continental Congress. To me, these two artists were both grounded in the nation’s history and reaching for a new future. What is more American than that?
  • These artists were inspired by a variety of sights across America, from Pike’s Peak to Coney Island. I love that this song represents the variety of landscapes across our country (including my special favorite – the “amber waves of grain” of Kansas).
  • This song has even been a political football. At various times in the last century, some people have tried to give “America the Beautiful” some sort of official status as a national anthem, on par with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Some prefer this song’s peaceful lyrics over the battle imagery of the national anthem. Of course, for some, the reason for preferring “America the Beautiful” is musical rather than political:
  • “America the Beautiful” is more singable than “The Star-Spangled Banner,” according to some critics. I have to say I agree – I sing “America the Beautiful” with music therapy groups much more often than our official national anthem. The kind of song that everyone can sing together – no divas or sports stars required – that’s the kind of song that I think is truly American.

What do you think? Is “America the Beautiful” one of your favorite patriotic songs, or do you have another? For my friends not in America, what are the favorite songs to represent your country? Please leave your thoughts below.

Unleashing the Power of Age: Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

May is Older Americans Month, and this year we’re celebrating the official theme “Unleash the Power of Age” with a series of posts recognizing people who have done some amazing creative work in their later years.

Leonard Cohen is a poet and a songwriter who has been creating art since publishing his first volume of poetry in 1956. At the age of 78, Leonard Cohen’s career has already spanned almost six decades, and he is still having an impact on musicians and poets today.

Of course, some of Cohen’s most famous songs – such as “Hallelujah,” “I’m Your Man,” and “Bird on a Wire” – continue to impact younger artists, but what is even more remarkable is that Cohen is still producing music just as thought-provoking and powerful as the songs that made him famous decades ago. In this post, I’ll focus on Cohen’s most recent album, Old Ideas, released in January 2012.

Before I get into my impressions of Old Ideas, I do want to say that I haven’t really dug terribly deep into Leonard Cohen’s earlier albums. This album is my starting place for appreciating Cohen’s music. (It seems I often work backwards through artists’ work. See my previous posts on Glen Campbell and Loudon Wainwright for evidence of that.)

That being said, in this album, Cohen’s deep, scratchy, and barely-melodic voice sets the solemn, meditative tone, especially when contrasted with the angelic voices of back-up singers. The combination of voices is at the forefront of the music, with rather spare and simple accompaniment providing support while allowing the lyrics to ring through.

As for the lyrics, themes of mortality, memories of relationships past, and a wish for closure or reconciliation run through the entire album, defining the mood as solemn and reflective for the most part. Even the more upbeat tracks – “The Darkness” and “Banjo” come to mind – still feel like they’re in shadow.

Cohen also uses a lot of religious language (e.g. “the blood of the lamb” in “Amen” and “come healing of the spirit” in “Come Healing,”), which, combined with the angelic backup singers, makes some of these songs sound almost like a hymn. Considering that Cohen has always identified as a Jew, even after spending several years in a monastery and being ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk, these songs bring up spiritual and existential issues without speaking directly to particular religious traditions. People from many faith backgrounds may find truth in these songs.

Does all of this seriousness and darkness add up to an album worth avoiding? I don’t think so. While I won’t be adding any of these tracks to my Feel Good Playlist anytime soon, I do appreciate the emotional heft of these songs, and I think that they could provide a solid container for some of the more difficult feelings and ideas we have to contend with as humans, such as the notion of death and endings. Cohen’s album is solemn, but not depressing. It’s about endings and death, but it doesn’t feel like a funeral. Instead, this album portrays another side of aging and later life than the humorous defiance of Loudon Wainwright’s “Older Than My Old Man Now” and the courage in the face of hardship of Glen Campbell’s “Ghost on the Canvas.” Each of these perspectives has its own value and beauty to offer our world.

Above all, I admire Leonard Cohen’s continued creative work over a long career. May he continue creating works of beauty for years to come.

Are you familiar with Leonard Cohen’s work? Have you heard his latest album? Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Song Spotlight: “April Showers”

April showers...

April showers…

  • Mood: Hopeful
  • Themes: Rain, flowers, happiness
  • Tempo: Moderately slow
  • Genre/Style: 1920s popular song

As I write this, it’s yet another rainy day at the end of April. After last summer’s drought, I am glad for the rain, but I am also very ready for springtime to be here in full force. So, the song “April Showers” has been on my mind.

With music by Louis Silvers and lyrics by B.G. De Sylva, “April Showers” was first made famous by Al Jolson and has been recorded by many people since then. Here are the lyrics for the chorus:

Though April showers may come your way,
They bring the flowers that bloom in May.
So if it’s raining, have no regrets,
Because it isn’t raining rain you know, it’s raining violets.
And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see the crowds of daffodils;
So keep on looking for a blue bird and list’ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

I love this song for its rich imagery and its accessibility on both concrete and abstract levels.

First, the concrete. This song mentions violets, daffodils, and even the quintessential bluebird of happiness. Even the cliched phrase, “April showers bring May flowers” provides an entree to conversation with folks with various stages of cognitive impairment. This is one of many songs I introduce in music therapy sessions to encourage participants to talk about gardening or signs of spring. It’s also helpful for directing people’s attention to the current weather conditions, not to mention the date on the calendar.

...bring May flowers

…bring May flowers

But I love the abstract level of this song, too. The overriding message of this song is that even though times may be tough now, there will be better times to come. In other words, life has its seasons, too, some which are lovelier than others. Personally, I think this is a more realistic offer of hope than the message that you should just keep smiling, even if you’re feeling bad. Here, we acknowledge the April showers of life – the clouds, the storms, the grayness – while holding out hope for and expectation of spring – the beauty, the new life, the colors and birdsong. Sometimes, focusing on the fact that dealing with challenges can bring us even greater strength may be what we need to get through a particularly difficult time.

What do you think? Do you like the “April Showers” analogy to changing life circumstances? What else do you see in this song? Please leave your comments below!

This post is part of an occasional series on special songs to share with your loved ones. For more song spotlights, click here.

Top 10 Funny Songs for Seniors

Happy April! With April Fool’s Day starting the month, and the light, goofy feeling that comes with springtime, I can think of no better way to celebrate this new season than by singing some equally ridiculous songs. The goofy songs I list below are some of my favorites to share with music therapy clients when it’s time to lighten the mood.

10. Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off – you say “to-MAY-to,” and I say “to-MAH-to.”

9. A Boy Named Sue – you can’t beat Johnny Cash’s rendition of this family drama

8. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – singing it is fun; trying to spell it – even better!

7. Too Fat Polka – a ridiculous reason to refuse to dance

6. New Horizons in Music Appreciation – for the classical music lovers, a play-by-play commentary on Beethoven’s 5th Symphony by Peter Schikele

5. If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time – at least the singer is being honest.

4. Little Brown Jug – each verse is funnier than the last

3. Your Feets Too Big – Fats Waller’s classic song

2. It’s Hard To Be Humble – “…when you’re perfect in every way”

1. Mairzy Doats – I love this one, for the silly lyrics and the reactions it often brings from my older adult clients.

What are some of your favorite goofy songs for seniors?

Kansas City Jazz: Count Basie

Count Basie at the piano with vocalist Bob Crosby, ca. 1941

Count Basie at the piano with vocalist Bob Crosby, ca. 1941

When we last left off our Kansas City jazz series, Bennie Moten – our homegrown musician and leader of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra – had just died from a botched tonsillectomy. The man who took over leadership of the group, who eventually led a new band full of Moten alumni to an even wider jazz audience, was none other than Count Basie, one of the biggest names in jazz.

Count Basie began his life in New Jersey and ended in New York City, but a very important chapter in his musical development happened right here in KC. Basie began playing piano as a child, and after an early stint with jazz drumming, he settled on the piano exclusively at the age of 15. At the age of 20, Basie moved to Harlem, and then joined a series of traveling performance groups, which took him across the country over the next five years.

In 1929, Basie settled in as the pianist for the Moten orchestra, inspired by Moten’s goal of becoming as big as the bands led by Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. Basie helped make arrangements, and he even did some four-hand and dueling piano stuff with Moten himself. After Moten’s death, in 1936, Basie formed a new band, including several Moten alumni and the soon-to-be-famous tenor sax player Lester Young. The band spent a few more months in KC before moving to Chicago then eventually to New York.

Many more pages can be written about Count Basie’s long and fruitful career, which lasted until his death in 1984 at the age of 79. For now, though, we’ll end here by mentioning one of Count Basie’s signature songs, first improvised on a live radio broadcast right here in Kansas City. The famous song was born in the wee hours of the morning, hence the name: “One O’Clock Jump.”

Have you known and loved the music of the Count Basie orchestra? Did you know he started making waves right here in Kansas City? (I sure didn’t before starting to research KC jazz!) Please share your thoughts and memories below!

Song Spotlight: “I’ve Got Plenty To Be Thankful For”

Thanksgiving can be a bittersweet day for caregivers.

On the one hand, the things you’ve lost can seem so much more GONE during the holidays, whether it is the first holiday season since a loved one’s death, the realization that Grandma just can’t make the sweet potato pie herself anymore, or a year when all the kids and grandkids are spread to the four winds, your husband is in the nursing home, and you’re opening a can of cranberry sauce just for yourself. I’ve spent time with many folks who are in the midst of sorrow.

On the other hand, feelings of gratitude can be all the more strong in the midst of loss and decline. Maybe you are thankful for your flexible boss who understands when you need to leave in the middle of the day to take care of a crisis. Maybe it’s gratitude that your husband is still with you and still laughing at your goofy jokes, even after the stroke that took away his ability to speak and tell his own jokes. Maybe you’re filled with gratitude every morning that your wife can sit with you at the breakfast table. I’ve heard many caregivers and seniors express enormous gratitude, even in the midst of health and financial problems that would bring anyone to their knees. They say that this is what gets them through to the next day.

Next week, I’ll share a new song with you, one that has been composed in pieces by several of the seniors I see for music therapy, one that is full of gratitude. This week, though, I’ll share Irving Berlin’s take on Thanksgiving in the midst of heartache, with the song “I’ve Got Plenty To Be Thankful For.”

This song is one of twelve original songs Irving Berlin wrote for the 1942 film “Holiday Inn,” which also included “White Christmas,” the best-selling single of all time. In this film, the main character Jim, played by Bing Crosby, has given up a life in show business to work on his farm. He decides to turn the farm into a country inn, open only for holidays. As he goes through his first year at the Holiday Inn, we hear songs for each season, all through the lens of Jim’s romantic and professional struggles. By Thanksgiving, he is depressed and lonely, having lost his sweetheart. He has been asked to write a song for a film about his Holiday Inn, which we hear as “I’ve Got Plenty To Be Thankful For.” This song is quite chipper compared to his mood, and as we hear the song in the movie, Jim has a negative comment to answer every positive notion in the song. Fortunately for Jim (and the viewer!), shortly after Thanksgiving, Jim makes it back to his love and we get a happy Hollywood ending.

Whether you’re in the new romance stage of life or not, I bet you can relate to this song, both at its face value and with how Jim experiences the song during the movie.

On its face, this song is all about simple happiness, the small things that fill you with gratitude for life and living. These are my favorite lines:

I’ve got eyes to see with
Ears to hear with
Arms to hug with
Lips to kiss with
Someone I adore

This song even has a dose of reality for those of us who are happy even without everything, with Bing Crosby singing, “I haven’t got a great big yacht to sail from shore to shore/But I’ve got plenty to be thankful for.” The song offers a way to feel gratitude for the smallest things in life.

Still, sometimes it’s hard to feel that gratitude. Check out how Jim reacts to hearing his own song:

In the context of the film, we see an understanding that just hearing a song like this doesn’t change how you feel. In fact, sometimes hearing the cheery talk of thankfulness may feel like rubbing salt in your wounds. Those feelings are just as valid as the happy ones, and it’s helpful to recognize and honor the bitter mixed in with the sweet.

So, we really can pull two lessons from this song:

  1. We do have plenty to be thankful for, and practicing gratitude can help us feel thankful, even when things aren’t perfect.
  2. Gratitude and sadness are both valid feelings, and they can co-exist. You can choose gratitude, but it’s okay that you just don’t feel thankful sometimes.

What kind of feelings are you having as you approach Thanksgiving this year? Are you full of gratitude to the point of bursting? Or do you have some sadness or fear or regret mixed in?

No matter how you are feeling this year, please know that I wish you and yours a good Thanksgiving.

Song Spotlight: “Solamente Una Vez”

You might hear mariachi singing this song. Photo via RinzeWind at flickr.com

  • Mood: Sentimental
  • Themes: True love
  • Tempo: Moderate
  • Genre/style: Mexican bolero

A particular advantage of music as a therapeutic medium is that connections can be made across cultural boundaries and even language barriers. Sharing a song from another person’s childhood or homeland can be powerful, and even when conversation is not possible, you can still be in music together. This is one reason why music therapists can be especially helpful in cross-cultural therapeutic interactions, whether that be with patients in a hospital, children in a bilingual classroom, or families spending the last few weeks and days with a person on hospice care.

In my part of the world, I frequently work with folks who are native Spanish speakers. So, over many years of practice, I’ve built up a repertoire of Spanish-language songs, especially those that appeal to my older adult clients. One of my favorites – a song that is almost always familiar – is “Solamente Una Vez.”

This song was written and originally sung by Mexican songwriter Agustín Lara, a prolific composer who eventually wrote more than 800 compositions. The original Spanish version has been performed by many artists, including Benny Moré, Ignacio Piñeiro, and Luis Miguel.

A later English version, “You Belong to My Heart,” was featured in the 1944 Disney film “The Three Caballeros.” Ray Gilbert wrote the English lyrics for this version, which are not translations of Lara’s original lyrics. Notably, Bing Crosby later made a popular recording of the English version.

The original Spanish lyrics are romantic, sentimental, and potentially heart-breaking, as the singer tells of the beauty and wonder of his one true love. Here’s the first part of the song:

Solamente una vez (Only one time)

Amé en la vida (Have I loved in my life)

Solamente una vez (Only one time)

Y nada más (And not again)

Isn’t that lovely? This song doesn’t really invite in-depth discussion, just the pleasant memory of love. For English-speaking Americans, an equivalent song might be “Love Me Tender” or “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” The difference is that those latter two songs get played and sung much more often in our senior living communities, while hearing “Solamente Una Vez” may be a much more special occurrence.

Sharing a popular song in your from your senior’s cultural background is a beautiful way to connect, but I will offer one word of caution: even if you aren’t a fluent speaker of the language and cannot make a direct translation, it is important to know what a song is about. Otherwise, you might find that your resident has an unexpected emotional response that you would not be prepared to address.

Were you already familiar with “Solamente Una Vez?” What songs are important to your cultural background? Please share in the comments below! 

This post is part of an occasional series on special songs to share with your loved ones. For more song spotlights, click here.