Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Healing Power Of Music - the magic of Austrian schlager singer Lolita !!

This video/song happens to be one of my first ever You Tube uploads that I created (wally1435 is my You Tube I.D.), but it goes much, much deeper than that. This song was literally a lifesaver to me when I needed help and I'll be forever grateful for what the power of music can do to people in times of need.

The number of viewings for this clip has surpassed 100,000 viewings, but...more important to me is the emotional comments and responses it has generated among those viewing it. There is a major story behind why this song is so special to me:

I arrived in the U.S. from Germany as a 10 year old kid; we first settled in El Paso because it was home to a huge Army base. My dad was American and in the service; my mother was German. She and I had to adapt very quickly to American ways and learn the language, but overall we loved being in El Paso. I have mostly warm memories of my time there, though it was only about 3 years.

Since my dad had to return to Germany to finish his tour of duty, he felt it best that he take us to his hometown so his relatives could watch over us. There was very little culture shock to me in El Paso because it was a very diverse large city and had quite a few other foreign kids in my class - I knew of at least 10 other kids who were German in my school. It made the transition pretty easy for us in adjusting to American ways.

Arriving in my dad's hometown in Louisiana was a totally different story and absolute culture shock of the worst kind. A small town with quite a few backward people with equally backward ideas. In school I had one kid throw a rock at me, one of the older girls (who happened to be the reigning High School beauty queen) called me the racist derogatory name usually reserved for "Cajun" people in the south. simply because I "talked funny" (still had my heavy German accent then). My dad was furious when he heard what I'd been called...I had never heard the expression before and was unaware I had been grossly insulted until I saw the rage he went into, threatening to go to school and "blow her head off" (had never heard him talk this way before). The name I was called, "coonass".... is still considered an ethnic slur of the worst kind by Cajuns, though the younger ones now wear the term with pride among themselves.

To make a long story short, my dad had to return to Germany to finish his tour of duty. I felt more isolated than ever now that he was not there to give us strength to deal with some of this. My mother was of no help to me, she was barely coping herself...most people we interacted with came across as very condescending in just about everything, being polite simply because that's the way they should be. Where I had been a pretty happy go lucky kid in El Paso, I was sinking into a deep depression rapidly. It didn't help that my aunt decided I needed to go to church, an Apostolic Pentecostal church that never let me forget I was not good enough, would never be good enough and it was actually a sin if you tried to be better ("false pride"). It was too much.

One day I happened to turn on the radio and a familiar language suddenly permeated the room. It was the song "Sailor (Your Home Is The Sea)" aka "Seeman, deine Heimat ist das Meer" by Austrian singer Lolita Ditta, known simply as Lolita. I had not heard the German language in ages...my mother simply refused to speak it anymore, saying we had to do things differently in America (more on that later, in future postings) and as a result I was losing the ability to speak it with no one to interact with anymore. Had we stayed in El Paso, it is very likely I would have remained connected to fellow Germans and kept my heritage alive.

At any rate, I recall being overcome with joy upon hearing the song.....I had begun to feel tremendous home sickness because of the feelings of isolation and despair I was going through. It was as if a lifeline was being tossed to me to help me remember who I was, where I was from and to be proud of that. I understood the German lyrics perfectly. The nearest big city was about 30 miles away, but might as well have been 100 since we never went due to no transportation or reason for going there; someone at a local station must have taken a liking to the song because they played it for about 3 weeks and I tried to catch it is often as I could. And, they were also stating that it was a nationwide hit (it made the Billboard Top Ten, going to number 5 in very late 1960).

I felt such happiness - it brought much needed sunshine into my dismal life for that period. And not long after my father wrote to tell us he was finally coming back home, finishing his tour of duty in Germany. Once he got back home, he lost no time in moving us to another home, away from his relatives. Apparently he'd heard some stories (from other relatives and a friend) of how some of them had treated us, he severed ties with them. I was only about 13 then, so I guess I had been shielded from some of what had transpired.

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