Every day from now until Spring, I will play a song from each year from 1940-2020. I’ll also write a little bit about the song and why I chose it to represent that year.
In my humble opinion, 1983 was a prolific year for good music. Persuing through the “Billboard Hot 100” yielded many memorable songs. I’d say 75% of the songs on the list I would consider great or near great. But for me, one song stands out. It is a song I have carried with me these last 37 years. I’ve played it in my heart many times. And it has never ceased to be a font of succor and strength.
My life was action-packed that year. 1983 contained part of my freshman and sophomore years in college and I was still trying to adjust from being so far from home. I picked Fort Hays State University primarily because it was about 250 miles from where I grew up. I figured I needed to throw myself in the deep end of the pool if I wanted to learn how to swim. The problem was, adjusting to being so far from my family was more of a challenge than I anticipated.
Not only that but my lack of self-awareness kept me from realizing just how underdeveloped my social skills really were. I no longer had my family as a shield or mask my inept interactions with others. I was a bit of a walking wound in those days, and I don’t blame people for keeping me at arm’s length. And those who were genuinely kind (and there were many) I tended to regard with suspicion. To have a friend you need to be a friend. And to be a friend, you need to treat others (and yourself) respectfully.
That and I discovered alcohol which lead me to do some really dumb things. (Not as dumb as they could have been, Thank God). I was dealing with a near-crippling sense of loneliness. I hadn’t figured out that internal pain can truly only be relieved through internal healing. Nothing external could absolve or ameliorate what I felt inside.
But looking back now, I can see the presence of the Divine guiding me and that path went through Hays, Kansas. I needed to be out on my own and not have the ability to come back home when things became difficult. The lessons we need to learn we rarely choose. I’m a better person because of 1983. Although some of the seeds would take years or even decades to reach fruition.
So, this leads me to my selection for this year. “Back on the chain gang” by The Pretenders. To me, the song is about surviving. How we overcome our hurt and move forward. It’s also a song of loss. Lead singer Chrissie Hynde wrote this after two members of “The Pretenders” died from drug overdoses. I love the line “I found a picture of you, those were the happiest days of my life. Like a break in the battle was your part, in the wretched life of a lonely heart.” Some eras of our lives are better than others. Sometimes we have to move from the good to the not-so-good.
As painful as those days were, I still miss them. I miss who I was (even though the me now is stronger and healthier in spirit if not body) I miss 1983, But sometimes you have to put down the picture and get back to work. Such is life.