Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Two Songs for Opposite Moods by Kaye Spencer #prairierosepubs #feelgoodsongs #sadsongs

We all know songs that lift us up, take us to cherished places in our memories, or remind us of the not-so-happy experiences and events in our lives. We can pinpoint a moment in time and practically relive the emotion we felt when we hear certain songs.

In my musical-memory world, I have an imaginary line on a song spectrum. This opposite ends of this line are capped by two specific and never-changing songs. On any given day, and according to my frame of mind and mood, other songs fall somewhere along that invisible, fluid song line and between the end-cap songs.

On the feel-good, makes-my-toes-tap-and-my-heart-happy part of the song spectrum are songs like these—

  • Great White Horse
  • My Rifle, My Pony, and Me
  • Beat It
  • Dream On
  • Don’t Worry, Be Happy
  • (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
  • Oh, Pretty Woman
  • I’m Still Standing
  • Bus Stop
  • Holding Out for a Hero
  • Take My Breath Away
  • Home in the Meadow
  • Goodbye Earl
  • There’s a Kind of Hush

These are song examples that live on the other end where ‘Yes, in fact, I did eat the entire five-pound box of Russell Stover assorted chocolates while binge-listening on YouTube and using up a box of tissues’—

  • One Promise too Late
  • Fernando
  • My Woman, My Woman, My Wife
  • Alone
  • It Must Have Been Love
  • White Christmas
  • My Heart Will Go On
  • Give My Love to Rose
  • Careless Whisper
  • How Do I Live?
  • It’s Only Make Believe
  • The Dance
  • Yesterday
  • Yesterday, when I was Young
  • For the Good Times

The two songs that keep the rest of the songs from slipping off the ends of my make believe song line are from different musical genres, but both songs reach me at deeply emotional places.

One song elicits memories of a particularly happy time in my life—like that one perfect summer—and the other song delivers me to a bittersweet, love-that-was-doomed-from-the-start and didn't end happily time in my life.

I’ll start with the melancholy song.

Who Wants to Live Forever?


This song is a 1986 power ballad by the rock group Queen. It was written by the group’s lead guitarist Brian May for the soundtrack to the movie Highlander. Legend has it that it took him only 20 minutes to write the song (in the back seat of a car) after he watched the 20-minute initial cut of the scene in the Highlander movie where immortal Connor MacLeod’s non-immortal wife dies.

For me, there isn’t a sadder, more hopeless, existential-crisis song.

Highlander movie clip with the song. If the clip doesn't show on your device, here is the url:


Here’s my toe-tapping, face-smiling, earworm-worthy happy song. 

Dance Little Jean by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

This song was released as a single in October 1983, and it reached Number 9 on Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. According to Wikipedia,  Longtime member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Jimmy Ibbotson...

...wrote the song hoping the charm and romance of the story would convince his ex-wife that they should get back together. Little Jean was named for his real life daughter who would always dance when he played guitar. When he played it for his ex-wife for the first time, Little Jean danced, but his ex-wife's response was not what he had hoped for. She told him he would be able to afford child support now, because that song would be a hit.

Alrighty then…

Despite that story, it’s still a feel-good song that appeals to the romantic in me. It makes makes me warm and fuzzy and glad all over when I hear it.

If the video doesn't show on your device, here is the url:

Do you have opposite-mood songs or a song that picks you up or brings on the melancholy memories?  I’d love to hear what they are.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Stay in contact with Kaye—



  1. So much evocative music on here. I can see why you picked each and every one of them. My favourite is when something you half-forgot come on the radio and hits that sweet spot for your mood that day.

    1. C.A.,

      I know exactly what you mean about hearing a long-forgotten song out of the blue. Then it seems like for a while after that, you hear that song again and again and it just keeps you there in that memory-moment for a long time.

  2. I often use music to get into the mood to write certain scenes before I begin writing. It's interesting that you have 2 primary music choices for both happy and sad moods, and then a list of music beneath those. I have a play list of "Torch Songs" and a list of "Happy Songs" that I use. Sometimes I find one particular song that speaks to the story I'm writing. "It's Only Make Believe" was the song I played when I wrote a Wilding story by the same name. I used Enya's song "Where Are You Now" when I wrote THE VIOLIN. That song makes me sad every time I hear it.
    A song I like to lift my own spirits and not associated with writing is "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles.
    This was such a thought provoking blog. You always come up with something interesting. All the best, Kaye.

    1. Sarah,

      I don't have playlists or songs that set the mood for writing scenes, but I appreciate that it works for many writers. However, music is always on in my house, whether it's the radio, which is generally SiriusXM's Ch. 76 Symphony Hall or movie soundtracks. A lot of times when I'm writing, I have a movie playing for the music and dialogue. I mostly ignore it, but I have to have noise to keep me focused. I know that sounds weird, but I have a hard time concentrating in complete silence (or in a really quiet environment), because I become fixated on the silence.

  3. I love Highlander and have watched it several times. Great song list and quite a few of my favorites among them. One of my fave go-to songs is Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress by The Hollies. I'll put it on repeat because there's something about the beat. Same thing with Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. Another repeat fave is Hotel California by The Eagles, especially the live 1976 performance with the long dueling guitars at the end. When I'm writing/editing I put on James Last's Classics album, no words to distract me from thinking. And how can I not include That Summer by Garth Brooks, which inspired a book that turned into a trilogy. Great post, Kaye, and now I want to listen to them all. And if I'm in a mellow mood, Elvis or Jim Reeves ballads.

    1. Elizabeth,

      Isn't the Highlander movie great? "There can be only one" is a common quote my family uses. ;-) Another Michael Jackson song I like for the upbeat side is The Way You Make Me Feel. Have you seen Steve Martin's parody of Billie Jean? It's fabulously funny. It's on YouTube. Hotel California never disappoints. I love the tune and the story. Garth Brooks has several songs that beg to have a story written to expand them. Ahh... Jim Reeves...such a smooth, silky voice.

  4. Oh, GOSH! ALL GREAT SONGS! Melancholy ones--top of the list is Forever Young -- the one written by Bob Dylan and performed by Joan Baez. I cannot hear that without getting teary. Another melancholy one--Brothers in Arms by Mark Knopfler--lots of Mark Knopfler songs are so poignant and just touch a chord deep inside my heart. Jackson Browne--I feel the same way about so many of his songs, but particularly For a Dancer. As for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, their version of Mr. Bojangles really is touching, but I think Jim Stafford's version of that song can bring me to tears every single time I hear it. The Dance always makes me teary, too, Kaye. As for "oldie-oldie" songs that really play on the heartstrings, "When I Was Seventeen (It Was a Very Good Year) by Frank Sinatra.

    Love me some Marty Robbins and I play his gunfighter songs when I need comfort--Like when I'm driving on I-40 with big 18 wheelers all around me. LOL One song I dearly love that always makes me feel good is Reckless by Alabama ("let's roll the windows down, turn the radio up, let the wind blow through our hair...") Gosh, now I'm going to be thinking of songs all through the night on both ends of the spectrum--very thought provoking post, Kaye!

    1. Cheryl,

      I limited my list, or I would have still been writing this article. haha And, of course, Marty has songs for every mood. Frank Sinatra sure had some good ones. It was a Very Good Year is a heart-wrencher. It reminds me of Roy Clark's Yesterday, When I was Young.

      A point of interest on "Forever Young": Rod Stewart wrote a song called "Forever Young" which has vaguely similar lyrics and similar overall 'feel' to Bob Dylan's. In fact, Rod realized this, so he sent the song to Bob prior to releasing it and asked if Bob had issues with the similarities. He did, but they agreed to share ownership and share royalties. So, Win-Win.

  5. OMG - so many of the songs are ones that make me happy too. Bus Stop! I have adored that song since I have 12!!! Never loses it Magic.

    One I would add to the sad songs -- Madonna You'll SEE

  6. Deborah,

    Bus Stop is such a wonderfully heart-happy song. I just love it.

    Oh my gosh!!!! I completely forgot about Madonna's song 'You'll See'. It definitely goes on the sad songs end of the spectrum. The music is haunting. The lyrics are hopeless and hopeful AT THE SAME TIME!

    1. Did you know Katie Macalister did a book based on the song? It was called "Improper English"

      A lot of the Hollies songs were upbeat. Look Through Any Window used to play every morn when mum was dropping me off at school, and it was a ear worm all Long Dark Road is another that lifts my heart, but it could also fit in the second category too, since it's about a romance that is over.

    2. Deborah,

      No. I didn't know there was a book based on Bus Stop. I will look into this. ;-)

  7. I've posted a lot of my 'memory' songs, but "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" always gets me, along with Neil Diamonds version of the Randy Newman song "I Think It's Going to Rain Today". Of course, the 'Sea Shanty Medley' by Home Free always makes me smile. Doris

    1. Doris,

      Bride Over Troubled Waters fits so many situations and changes meaning depending upon those situations. Such a great song. I love Randy Newman. He writes silly songs and deeply moving songs. I'd forgotten about the Sea Shanty Medley. It's definitely a lift-your-mood song.

  8. Your post brings back so many memories. I hadn't even thought about some of the songs on you for years, but I still know all the words to them anyway. Thanks for triggering thought from the past.

    1. Ann,

      Isn't that funny how we can recall song lyrics years and years after the last time we heard that song, but we can't remember why we came into the room? (at least, that's the case with me) hahaha

  9. Super blog, Kaye! Music really stirs the soul

    1. Lindsay,

      I couldn't agree more. Music is a universal language. Thanks for stopping in. ;-)