The Song of Psychotherapy: Billy Joel, The Beatles and You

The Song of Psychotherapy: Billy Joel, The Beatles and You

Billy Joel, the great modern-day doo op master, openly talks about how he takes old music and makes it his own. He’s not original in his musical abilities, yet everything he does is distinctly Billy Joel. Going from a classically trained pianist to a rock and roller, Joel began creating his own tunes when he got bored playing Mozart and Beethoven. If you listen carefully you can hear the notes from the old 60’s song Wipeout in the opening to Angry Young Man. Joel is one of the best-selling singer song-writers of our generation and a good example of how our uniqueness evolves as we differentiate from that which precedes us.

The Beatles, another example of uniqueness born out of history, were influenced by the songs of young black artists from the United States. They had a lot of cover songs during their early years, pulling inspiration from works like Chuck Berry’s Rock And Roll Music and Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally. John Lennon famously said that if there was no Elvis Presley there would be no Beatles. McCartney also acknowledged that their first 40 songs were influenced by Buddy Holly. Although the Beatles changed records forever with their mop-top, culture shifting, British infused humor, their appearance on the music scene did not happen overnight in a recording studio.

As one music note flows from another, we realize the considerable value of seeing our connection to the old classics. Exploring musical contexts can lead to a deeper understanding of the influences that shape, and are shaped by, any particular era. We don’t often think that the predecessors to the music we like are analogous to how our own lives develop but there are some distinct correlations. For instance, Ragtime gave way to Swing, which influenced Jazz, which promoted Sing, which led to Rock, Punk and Grunge. The progression goes on and on. Sometimes the leaps are sequential, like the rockabilly of Presley to the rock and roll of the Beatles, but you would be less certain to know that Presley was influenced by Gospel, which seems like a discontinuous leap to rockabilly. Similarly, Grandparents influence parents who in turn influence children (Gospel, to Rock, to Punk). At the same time, my grandparents were influenced by immigration, my parents by World War II, while I was influenced by the Equal Rights Movement and my children by the millennium. Just as one musical genre includes and transforms the others before it, we are continually challenged to grow beyond the restrictions of those who came before us by creating new contexts for self-expression.

This is the basis for The Song of Psychotherapy; the continuous drumbeat of progress that contains and transforms all that came before it while creating greater possibilities for all going forward. We are all born into a particular family culture, which is defined by its predecessors. It’s not good enough that I reach the same level of cognitive and emotional development as my parents; I must also grow beyond their restrictions into my own identity. Billy Joel was not satisfied with his classical training so he became Billy Joel rather than simply a lounge singer who was classically trained. Of course, we can’t all be Billy Joel, but that’s not the point. We can all become unique unto ourselves by understanding where we come from and what we have to overcome to get to where we’re going.

The Beatles didn’t stop at the pop breeziness of their early classics like She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand. They took over the studio production of their music and evolved to produce Rubber Soul, and then followed that up with the fully realized music of Revolver and finally to the mind-blowing crescendo of Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was a musical progression unlike anything the world had ever seen before. The Beatles created the future of music based on the lessons and values they learned from the music that come before them. Let that be our map for what personal progression looks like as we create our own distinct futures.

To have a far-reaching consciousness of yourself you have to be willing to sing in the choir but not be defined by the choir. You have to be willing to honor your family heritage while bending the family norms to meet your own particular style. You have to be willing to be a soloist in all regards who may sometimes be a conformist, yet also a renegade. Our job is to find our voice within the noise of a thousand voices. To write our own history while others are trying to shape what we write. And ultimately, to carry our own tune as we lay down the tracks of our lives. My refrain is; Billy Joel is not original and yet everything he does is distinctly Billy Joel. The Beatles started as a cover band and yet went on to become The Beatles! These are the songs of psychotherapy that we need to make distinctively our own as we craft our individuality from the sameness around us. And so we go, onward.

Five Minute Articles For Your Consideration5 comments

  1. Carol Elias says:

    Well as I sit here a day after Paul and the horses arrived AND I survived my cousins/family your message is so poingnant. And I thank you for it.

  2. Larry a terrific article. May I republish it with your credit in our International Hypnosis Federation newspaper “The Hyp News” of the day?
    Let me know… and thank you for your work
    Shelley (310) 541-4844

  3. Evie says:

    Great analogies. Enjoyed the whole article. Looking forward to the next one

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