This week’s song choice may surprise a few of you, though it shouldn’t, at least, not my close friends. I’m sharing The Dance as sung by Garth Brooks. I was surprised to realize that though Brooks is an accomplished songwriter, he did not write this particular song. The Dance was actually written by Brooks’ friend, Tony Arata and appeared on Brooks’ self titled 1989 album. I talk about my deep and abiding love for the heavy riffs and soaring melodies of metal music, but I’ve been known to go for a country diddy, now and again. In fact, at our wedding, Eric and I danced to Garth Brooks’ The River for our first song together. It still holds a special place in both our hearts.
This song is a simple, beautiful tune and it has a double meaning. It is a typical country theme, one of love lost. However, it is also the tale of a life ended whilst chasing a dream. Not being a huge country fan, I happened upon the ballad some time in early 1994. I caught the video late one night on tv. The images found me completely off guard as they feature fallen Americans, icons and heroes to many of us. These include (as detailed by the online site, Wikipedia):
- Lane Frost- World Champion Bull rider, who was killed by a bull after riding it for a full eight seconds in the arena.
- Keith Whitley- Country singer who died young of alcohol poisoning, he’s seen with his then wife Lorrie Morgan (a country star in her own right)
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- John F. Kennedy
- The crew of the Challenger Space Shuttle which exploded after launch in 1986, with many of us watching it live on tv (I was in Mr. Graf’s AP American History class), killing all seven crew members on board, including teacher, Christa McAuliffe.
- John Wayne
Later Brooks was invited to sing The Dance in 2001 at a NASCAR event honoring racing legend Dale Ernhardt after his untimely death.
What hooked me, besides the haunting melody, was the video itself. Not simply that these are some of our nation’s heroes, taken too soon, but that the piece featured personal scenes of JFK playing with his children, Dr. King kissing his wife and snuggling his little boy, even Keith Whitley joking with Lorrie Morgan, and all of them happy, vital and so alive. It reminds us, no one is a monolithic hero, that “icon” truly is a four-letter word and quite simply, people are people. While they were public figures to so many, their passing becomes much more poignant when you see them as the husbands, wives, parents, and friends they were in their own lives. Yes, they were a loss to the world, but how much more of a loss were they to their loved ones and how much more did they themselves give up in their early exit from life’s stage?
I really wanted the original video, the one that had stuck so firmly in my mind’s eye. It was important to me to find the piece which had made such an impression so even now, some eighteen years later, it still exerted a powerful hold on my heart. Surprisingly, it was difficult to find, even in today’s instant gratification of the Internet Age. That being said, when you click on the link below, it will take you away from my site, just hit back to finish reading this piece. There is also an advertisement, which I hate doing to you all, but it’s what I found I had to work with. I did find other sites with the video, but they all had something wrong with it, ie, the voice track wasn’t synched to the visual (most annoying and it undercuts the power of the story). Also, I wanted you to hear what Garth himself had to say about this song and why he chose to tell the story in this way.
Our lives are a miracle and I can only think one of the reasons we are able to blithely ignore our own fragile mortality lies in the joy of not knowing. So long as we have the luxury of not marking the number of our days, of not seeing the end of our path, we can revel in the moment. We can enjoy the fantasy of infinity, the endless tomorrows of the road before us. Put a number, a countdown in the mix and it becomes a vastly different proposition altogether.
We are all travelers and, whether we acknowledge it or not, we’re just passing through. No one gets out alive. With this in mind, be gentle on your fellow travelers. No matter how different their views, their beliefs, their decisions may be from your own, no one wakes up in the morning bound and determined to completely mess things up. In each of our own very different ways, we all strive to do the best we can. No one knows where the road leads and none knows when their dance ends. Though life can be cruel, this is the ultimate kindness, the illusion there is always another tomorrow, another chance to do better, to change and continue our dance.
As Ellen DeGeneres would say, “Be kind to one another”. We’re all in this together.
I do so love to dance.
“Dying is like coming to the end of a long novel–you only regret it if the ride was enjoyable and left you wanting more.”
JEROME P. CRABB