I grew up and still live in New Jersey. Our air is not the cleanest, so I never had a view like this of the night sky. Nevertheless, I was always inspired by what I saw. I wanted to be an astronaut, and explore the sky. This was the great adventure of my youth, when we as a country had yet to reach the moon. As I got older, I found out that, to be an astronaut, you had to be in the Air Force, and that was out of the question for me. So I moved on to other dreams. But the awe that the night sky inspired has never left me. And I can see now that I am not alone. Here then is a set of songs inspired by that sense of awe.
Tasmin Archer: Sleeping Satellite
Remember this one? Tasmin Archer had a hit with Sleeping Satellite in 1993. But now, she is all but forgotten. She did another album in 1996, and then not again until 2006, so it’s not all that surprising. But this one is definitely worth another listen. Archer equates the awe of the night sky with the rush of emotion that comes with a new love. Here, she has reached the point where she wonders if it all happened to fast. Musically, this one reminds me in all the right ways of the music Seal was making at the time. But lyrically, this one belongs to Archer alone.
Kate Bush: Constellation of the Heart
In olden days, sailors navigated by the stars. Kate Bush turns that inward, and proposes to navigate through love in the same way. Musically, this sounds to me as if it could have been produced by George Clinton. It’s a surprising sound for Bush, but she makes it work. And this one really cooks.
Afro Celt Sound System: Dark Moon, High Tide
I couldn’t resist including this one. Afro Celt Sound System began with the concept of finding common ground between Celtic and African music. Later, they would add other influences, but here is the original idea in its pure form. Electronics are used to smooth the rough edges, but are not intrusive. Dark Moon, High Tide is a fine example of their art.
Mary Chapin Carpenter: Ideas Are Like Stars
It seems to me that Mary Chapin Carpenter has created a character here who has what is known as “high-functioning autism”, or Asperger’s Syndrome. That may be a reach on my part, but the description of Joseph here fits. His life is lonely because he is “odd”. He forms a waitress’s name with coins he leaves her for a tip. And he can spend the entire night just watching the night sky. I applaud Carpenter for this spot-on and wonderfully sympathetic portrait.
Having said that, I would love to know the actual background for this song. It feels like it was based on a real person. If anyone has more information, please share it in the comments.
Emmylou Harris: Jupiter Rising
As night falls, and the stars come into view one by one, Emmylou Harris sings of a hoped for new love. Once there are enough stars visible, pictures form in the sky, and the resolution of this hoped-for romance will become clearer. Harris does not state any of this in her lyric, but, to my ears, it is strongly implied. Maybe I should write the resulting lyric, and send it to her. But I prefer to just listen to Jupiter Rising, and let my imagination wander. In a way, all of these reactions to the beauty of the night sky are about imagination.