If You Need a Reason to Sing

A few months ago, a friend shared a story on Facebook about a study which found singing show tunes helped improve mental performance in people with dementia. I was thrilled by this news because I regularly sing songs from Broadway shows. I sing them when I’m driving, when I’m at home, when I’m sitting at my desk in my office – you get the point.

There are times my favorite songs to sing are what I call the ‘watch me – you won’t stop me’ numbers – like “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” from South Pacific or “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” from Annie Get Your Gun. Sometimes I need something less upbeat. Thank goodness for songs like “Somewhere” from West Side Story, or “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Miserables.

But most of the time when I sing show tunes, I like to sing what I call the ‘I want it and I can do it’ numbers. Although these songs can happen at any point in a musical, these are often the third or forth song in the show – like “I Want to be a Producer” from The Producers, “The Wizard and I” from Wicked, or “I Can Do That” from A Chorus Line.

Since singing show tunes is helpful to your cognitive status (hey – there is research to back me up on this!) and since the Tony Award nominations were announced this past week, I am happy to do my little bit of public service and provide you with one of my favorites should you be searching for a melody to improve your memory. I chose this song from my “Broadway” playlist on my iPod then searched for a video to share. It’s difficult to find videos that were not recorded surreptitiously on shaky cell phones in a dark theater or recordings of a television performance. You can easily find alternate videos and clips for the song by doing a quick online search. If you do look for yourself, I hope you will sing along with a smile. It’s good for you.

“Astonishing” from Little Women (Music by Jason Howland, Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein)

I have always loved this story and I have felt a deep connection to Jo March since I first read the book in fourth grade. Maybe it is because she has several sisters. Maybe it is because she is a writer and doesn’t see herself getting married to the boy next door.

I have never seen the musical, but I do love this song which Jo sings immediately after she refuses Laurie’s marriage proposal. Sutton Foster, who played Jo in the original Broadway cast and who sings this recording, is amazing. When I need a boost, this song does it. Try it for yourself. It’s good for you.

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6 thoughts on “If You Need a Reason to Sing

  1. If you’re into the girl-power anthems, I highly suggest Legally Blonde (which I recommend for other reasons too). I was surprised how much I adored the musical when I saw it on Broadway and a lot of the songs are both comical and empowering.

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    • That is also a great soundtrack! “Find My Way” is on my list, but it’s more of a “losing you is not going to break me” song.

      “I had to find my way
      The day you broke my heart
      You handed me the chance
      To make a brand new start”

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  2. How about ‘I have confidence in me’ from The Sound of Music’. The music and lyrics are wonderfully upbeat. “… I’ve always longed for adventure. To do the things I’ve never dared. And here I’m facing adventure. Then why am I so scared. …”

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    • I LOVE that song! But, I only have the Broadway album on my iPod and that song was added for the movie. So, when I was searching my playlist for songs, that did not come up. My best friend calls that song a “Dee song” though – and I agree!

      “I must dream of the things I am seeking
      I am seeking the courage I lack

      The courage to serve them with reliance
      Face my mistakes without defiance
      Show them I’m worthy
      And while I show them
      I’ll show me!”

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  3. Yes- music has an amazing effect on the brain. I’ve seen people who otherwise can’t talk- both folks with dementia as well as autism and other conditions- sing, and people who don’t typically move much start grooving to the music (even if they stay in their chair) The late neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a book about his research on music & the brain. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15472815The “I Can Do X” songs are a good idea for encouraging positive (or at least neutral) self-talk. Hmm, I should make a playlist…

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