"If I knew the way, I would take you home..."
When I asked my Instagram followers to tell me their favorite life-changing albums, I received an amazing response. There were albums I had never heard of from artists I have scarcely listened to, and there were also old favorites of mine like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Radiohead's OK Computer.
I can't speak to many of the other albums that were mentioned by my followers because I'm not very familiar with those records, but I can confidently say that Dark Side and OK Computer are both masterpieces. Both of the albums achieve something that is very difficult to do--they capture a certain feeling or idea, and explore it from different angles, leaving a cohesive record of the exploration.
Dark Side explores the struggle of the human experience--boredom and anxiety in "Time", greed in "Money", humanity's affinity for tribalism and conflict in "Us and Them" and more in all the other songs I wont go into. OK Computer explores the loss of humanity and losing touch with one's own self in modern culture. To give you a taste--the lyrics "the yuppies networking" (in the song "Paranoid Android") are sung by Thom Yorke with such disgust that you can sense both his distaste of the yuppie culture of "networking" with the end goal of self-benefit, and the mourning of the "yuppie's" humanity, lost to forever being stuck in the modern rat race.
Both of these albums are great snapshots and explorations of culture and humanity. However, I don't think either of them had as much of a life-changing impact as the Grateful Dead's American Beauty.
Listening to the American Beauty album is a therapeutic and spiritual experience. It feels like home and it has cemented in me the values of family, friendship, self-acceptance, and responsibility. The band weaves poetry and life lessons into pleasant melody like very few have been able to do. When I put on American Beauty, it feels like I'm sitting down to have a heart-to-heart conversation with a really close friend or family member.
The album has themes of acceptance in Phil Lesh's coming to terms with his father's cancer in "Box of Rain," reflection in "Attics of My Life," the beauty of nature in "Sugar Magnolia," and more that you can dig up yourself through a listen of the album.
My favorite song on the album is "Ripple." To me, the song captures the spirit of camaraderie and friendship and the importance of that spirit as we all walk along our chosen paths in this life. It feels like a spiritual massage every time I play the song and who can resist singing along to the final chorus of voices singing, "ladadada!"