Music of solace for the season

(CBS News) This Christmas - perhaps more than most - we all could use some music that offers a little solace and hope. Some suggestions now from our friend Bill Flanagan of MTV:

There's music for every occasion, there's music for every emotion, and at this time of year, music is everywhere.

But we need music most when we have to transcend loss and sorrow. At those times, music allows us to carry burdens that might otherwise be too much to bear.

There's a new book out by Alan Light about Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" - a song which over the last 25 years has become a sort of secular hymn. Cohen's initial intention with that song was not religious. In fact, it's a pretty world-weary lyric.

But you know what? That really doesn't matter. As "Hallelujah" has been sung by different voices and put to different uses, it has become the anthem its audience needed it to be.

Paul Simon says that "Hallelujah" took the place of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as our secular spiritual. Isn't it remarkable that at the very end of the Sixties, in separate places and at the same time, Simon wrote "Bridge Over Troubled Water," the Beatles wrote "Let it Be," and James Taylor wrote "Fire and Rain" - all songs of endurance and perseverance that use the vocabulary of the spiritual without religious reference.

Some healing songs come straight from scripture. The reggae classic "Rivers of Babylon" by the Melodians is based on Psalm 137, the Babylonian exile.

Bob Dylan's "Every Grain of Sand" uses images from the Gospel of Luke to assure us that God loves us even when we do not love ourselves - that salvation is possible because humans are infinitely redeemable.

Bing Crosby in "Going My Way," a timeless holiday classic.
Paramount Pictures

At our house we listen to a lot of Bing Crosby during the holidays and we always watch "Going My Way." It reminds us of our parents and grandparents, and I suppose someday it will remind our kids of us. It's funny how many of those holiday songs are about separation and longing for reunion. You don't notice it when you're a child, but as you get older you appreciate the bitter-sweetness in those Christmas songs.

These are the shortest days of the year and for some people they are the hardest. But starting now, little by little, the days get longer.

The light is already coming back.

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