Stories of Music: Volume 1 was released almost three weeks ago, and while I have a lot of work to do to get the word out about the book, I feel blessed to have already received such great reviews and messages from readers. One such message arrived in my inbox last week from Pierre-Marie Bernard of Paris, France. He shared his own perspective on the recent terrorist attacks, and how music—although it has been at the heart of the violence in Paris—has been instrumental in the healing process. I was so moved by his inspiring words, I thought I would share his story with you here:
It’s there, in my mailbox. Straight from Denver, Colorado to Paris, France: Stories of Music, Volume 1. I open the parcel, take the book out, flip quickly through the pages. It looks good. It feels good, too. I sigh as I sit down on my couch and put on my favorite CD of the month (Allen Toussaint’s Songbook if you want to know).
Well, I can definitely use a few good music stories right now, some healing ones, too. Seventeen days ago, music was attacked in our town. Eighty-nine people were shot dead by terrorists at the Bataclan, a small Parisian concert venue, and many more were injured. They were there just to have fun, listening to an American rock band. In the twisted minds of their murderers, music is a crime that should be punished. How more inhuman can you get?
In the following days, though, the music they wanted so much to destroy kicked back in so many positive and human ways that it’s impossible to list them all. Let me just name a few here: I remember this Parisian guy who dragged his grand piano to the streets to play “Imagine”; or these rock superstars, U2, mourned almost anonymously in the crowd on the pavement in front of the Bataclan. At the same spot the next day, an Iranian violinist moved many people to tears with a Persian tune and a message of peace. New York City’s Metropolitan Opera and French and British football fans performed their own versions of “La Marseillaise” in very different ways, but both gave me goose bumps. I also think of all these Parisian people and foreign tourists who still showed up in theaters and concert halls the week after the attacks—many with trembling hands, but a fighting spirit for all. I think about how the hit musical comedy of the season, titled Résiste (Resistant), couldn’t be more appropriate. I could go on forever, but I’ll finish with this young guy who survived the attack in the concert hall and said that, as a result, he was going to start learning to play an instrument.
We’re not through the sadness yet, there is still a somber atmosphere in our streets, but all these stories and the music help tremendously. It looks like every bullet that was shot gave birth to a dozen music stories. They want to kill music? Someone should tell them they picked a lost cause.
Life goes on. Music, too, and it will for as long as humans will walk this earth. There will just be more music, because we’ll need it even more: to mourn the dead and to cheer us up, to dance to it and to relieve the pain, to wipe away the ugly and make our day beautiful again. Life is a jukebox: just pick a mood, and there will be the right tune to play along with it. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, if you know how to listen, music will be everything you need: the friend, the lover, the family. Sometimes, it’s even like an avalanche rescue dog that finds you—as long as your heart is beating, it doesn’t matter how deep you think you’re buried; music will bring the light back.
Vive la Musique and good luck to Stories of Music!
I read in the news today that the Eagles of Death Metal, who were performing at the Bataclan on the night of the attacks, returned to Paris and made a surprise appearance on stage with U2 just last night. They performed Patti Smith’s song, “People Have the Power,” to a cheering audience.
It’s times like these that I become even more grateful for the power of music—the way it brings people together and helps us overcome difficult circumstances. Thank you, Pierre-Marie, for sharing your story, and for your kind words. I hope the Stories of Music book brings you joy.
Sending love to Paris,