If you could only listen to one song, what would it be?

If you had only one song to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That question is a favorite of nighttime host Stephen Colbert. He asks it – and several others – of famous guests. The answer reveals a lot about one’s history and character.

My favorite answer came from New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen. The boss chose Summer wind by that other crooner from Jersey, Frank Sinatra. I just listened to a live version with Sinatra accompanied by the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. Those jazzy riffs bring back melancholic lyrics of lost love in a harmony that will last a lifetime.

I was surprised and excited by my wife Karen’s answer. she chose Over the rainbow, a number on many critics’ list of the greatest of the 20th century. But she passed young Judy Garland in… The Wizard of Oz for the simple yet amazing reinvention by Hawaiian artist Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Sometimes a ukulele works better than an orchestra. More than 1 billion YouTube viewers of the video can attest to that. This is the soothing antidote to whatever is troubling you today—or any day for that matter.

When Mr. Colbert invites me to his show, I’ll have an answer ready. I’ll be wearing my Beatles gear: my black hat with a picture of the four boys crossing Abbey Road, a khaki jacket – a John Lennon brand – marked with little peace signs and a T-shirt with the words Here comes the sun.

I could list 100 good contenders, but in the end that number, not John’s or Paul’s, but George’s, would always win. If Mr. Colbert allowed me, I would play it for him on an electric keyboard or a guitar. Inspired, I’d even sing some of the lyrics: “Little darling, it’s been a long cold, lonely winter….Little darling, it seems like years ago it’s been clear.”

Every time I sit down to play music in a writing workshop or casual performance, Here comes the sun is my first song. But this is my first time typing the lyrics, so excuse me for not seeing this tune take on special meaning in an era of pandemic. Yes, with George, it feels like years ago that it’s been obvious.

I was 16 years old when the Beatles arrived in New York in 1964, and every teenager with a transistor radio, every kid who could play an instrument or carry a tune wanted to be in a band. Those silly boys from Liverpool proved you didn’t have to be as handsome as Elvis to make the girls scream.

It became apparent early on that, despite their differences, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the band’s creative geniuses, especially when it came to songwriting. Recent biographies and documentaries reveal George Harrison’s frustrations and insecurities, both in his guitar playing compared to his friend Eric Clapton, and in his ability to write songs.

This changed in 1968 and 1969 when Harrison produced arguably the two best songs on the album Abbey Road album: the love ballad Something and the beautiful hybrid of Eastern and Western culture, of Krishna and Jesus, the gentle folk song Here comes the sun.

Next Yesterday, Something remains the most recorded Beatles song. Sinatra said it was his favorite and wrongly attributed it to Lennon and McCartney.

As regards Here comes the sun, as of August 2021 it was the most downloaded Beatles song, with let it be a distant second.

If I could listen to just one of these it would be Sun, with its simple complexity, its clever rhythms and instrumentation, with Harrison singing and playing at his best, and with his hopeful and inspiring message. The greatest poem in the English language, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, begins with a glorious celebration of spring, when all of England comes back to life in the month of April, after a cold and lifeless winter.

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It is a rich coincidence that Harrison wrote: Here comes the sun in April 1969 after a hard winter, and in a season when the great band was starting to fall apart.

Speaking of lucky coincidences, two months after Harrison wrote the song, I met a young woman from Rhode Island named Karen Major.

if Something wins second prize, not for nothing. On August 7, 1971, when a local band played the song, Karen and I enjoyed our first dance as a married couple.

Fast-forward to August 7, 2006, our 35th anniversary. We are at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas trying to get tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show Love, a multimedia celebration of the Beatles’ music. There are two seats left, slightly obscured from view, and in different rows.

We find our seats and people nearby realize we belong together and volunteer to move so the lovebirds can sit next to each other. It’s a great show, with dancing, acrobatics, clowns and some of our favorite songs.

Suddenly the lights soften and a ballet dancer takes the stage, and a softly opening guitar chorus strikes a familiar atmosphere. And then the vocal: “Something in the way she moves…attracts me like no other lover.” Here we are on our wedding day, listening to our wedding song. For a moment we don’t look at the stage anymore. We turned to each other, with a knowing smile, staring into each other’s eyes.

I just changed my mind. If I only had one song it would be Something.

What’s yours?

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