The Power of Songs — There are two songs that I associate with the celebration of the New Year: “Auld Lang Syne,” attributed to Robert Burns, and “Imagine,” co-written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. These songs capture two of our common responses to the arrival of the New Year. “Auld Lang Syne” reflects our impulse to look backward and remember and honor our long-standing friendships. “Imagine” asks us to look forward to a time when old-world prejudices give way to a new global harmony.
Robert Burns wrote down the words to “Auld Lang Syne” in 1788, but he drew his inspiration from an old Scottish folk song. Scholars who have studied the history of this song suggest that the lyrics as we know them today are a combination of the words from an anonymous folk song and original lines penned by Burns.
The song’s message about the importance of remembering old acquaintances speaks to our English Department as we mark this New Year. My memories of Julian Mason, Anita Moss, and Stan Patten are brought to mind as I look back on 2018. In keeping with the lyrics of the song, I propose that we raise a “cup of kindness” in honor of their many contributions to our department.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Imagine” was originally released in 1971, but its association with the New Year took root in 2005 when it was played for the first time at the New Year’s Times Square celebration just before the dropping of the illuminated ball. Since then, it has been played every year at the New Year’s event at Times Square.
Given the recent escalation in international tensions, the song’s peace message seems especially appropriate now. The song promotes the value of working toward world peace by breaking down nationalistic impulses. In the words of the song, “Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. … Imagine all the people living life in peace.”
For me, no New Year’s celebration would be complete without hearing “Auld Lang Syne” and “Imagine.” These songs give voice to our shared feelings and help establish a sense of community encompassing both the singers and the listeners. Such is the power of songs.
I wish you all a happy New Year!
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Lara Vetter‘s A Curious Peril: H.D.’s Late Modernist Prose recently received a very positive review in Modernism/modernity 25.4 (2018).
Upcoming Events and Meetings — Here is a list of upcoming events and deadlines:
January 9 — First day of classes for the Spring 2019 semester.
January 16 — Last day for students to add or drop a course with no grade.
January 29 — The Personally Speaking presentation featuring Janaka Bowman Lewis will take place on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, at UNC Charlotte Center City. Janaka’s presentation on her book Freedom Narratives of African American Women will begin at 6:30 p.m. A book signing and reception will follow her presentation. For more information and to RSVP, please click on the following link: https://exchange.uncc.edu/how-early-womens-writings-led-to-civil-rights-discourse/
Quirky Quiz Question — “Imagine” was originally released on a record label that was founded by the Beatles in 1968. What is the name of this record label?