Jul 19

Help! John Lennon’s cri de couer


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Dear family of patients,

On this summer day July 19, 1965 – 56 years ago, the Beatles released the single “Help!” (now ranked at number 29 on the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.) I remember listening to it over and over again with my brother in his room on our portable 45 rpm record player.  I also remember wrestling with my brother while listening to the B-side “I’m Down” (OK, I was 12 and my brother was 10.)

I sent you this song as an Earth Day video a few months ago, but looking back, I now feel that the importance of the Earth Day message as well as the accompanying visuals (not to mention my amateur vocals) detracted from simply enjoying the beautiful sound of this arrangement and instrumentation (Bösendorfer Grand piano sample on the Yamaha Clavinova.)

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the aural quality and chord changes alone, sans lyrics, seem to express all the existential angst of our current global pandemic moment, while improbably being strangely soothing at the same time. Lennon said that Help! was one of his favorite Beatles songs and “one of the only true songs he ever wrote.”

I’ve chosen the accompanying image of ‘The Scream’, by Expressionist artist Edvard Munch to pair with Lennon’s cri de coeur. The agonized face in the painting has become one of the most iconic images in art history, symbolizing the anxiety of the human condition.  It also reminds us that our current moment of ‘societal anxiety’ is by no means limited to recent decades but was present even in 1893 when ‘The Scream’ was painted.

Anyway, finally got that out of my system. Whew!


Dr. Weiss