Songs For Sound Minds #15 – Carole King

Songs for Sound Minds are our picks of the best music that uplifts, inspires and boosts mental health. Songs written as an anthem to overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling. Friendships lie at the heart of our latest pick: Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend.

On the Mental Health Foundation’s website one of their tools to help us all achieve good emotional and mental wellbeing is ‘10 practical ways to look after your mental health’. Many of them seem like good, common sense.

‘You’ve Got a Friend’ by Carole King

For example we all instinctively know that we should talk about feelings that are troubling us. The same too can be said for seeking help from a friend, counsellor or doctor (whether we do talk about our problems or seek help is of course a different matter!). In short, suggestions 1 to 9 all seem logical. The tenth and final recommendation may come as more of a surprise: care for others.

This seems to be counter-intuitive.  If we are not feeling great surely someone should be caring for us, not the other way round? The safety guide on an aircraft prompts us to fit our own oxygen mask before helping others, not the reverse. So what are our friends at the Mental Health Foundation getting at? Well if we dig a little deeper we find the proposal that ‘supporting them uplifts me’.

Supporting them uplifts me

Caring for others can have a profoundly positive effect on our own mental health. Some psychologists believe that recognising the suffering in a friend helps us relate more strongly to them. Thus counteracting the feelings of isolation experienced during period of poor mental health. It also talks to our common humanity and the need to support each other.

Research published last month highlighted the importance of friendships in helping us get through tough times and big life changes. Being a friend who gives as well as receives can actually make you both feel better.

Which is a lovely segue in to this week’s pick for our Songs For Sound Minds series: Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend.

From Fire and Rain to You’ve Got a Friend

King allegedly wrote You’ve Got Friend in response to a lyric in a song by her friend, James Taylor. In Taylor’s Fire and Rain the song goes: I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend. Written as a positive reply You’ve Got a Friend is also a perfect summary of the friendship between King and Taylor which stretches back to the early 1970’s. In fact it was Taylor’s encouragement that prompted King to start recording her own songs.

Carole King’s music career reads like one long list of hit after hit. One of the most successful female songwriters ever she has written, according to the Billboard Hot 100, a staggering 118 hit songs.  She became the ‘voice of bedsitter generation’ in the 1970s as well as the archetype for female singer songwriters.

Don’t worry, you’ve got a friend

You’ve Got a Friend is a powerfully emotional song. It encourages us not to worry, even when times are really tough, because our friend will be there to support us.  Or to take another viewpoint, we are saying to others that when they are struggling we will be there to support them.  And we can be confident that in taking this approach we are not only helping a friend in need. We are helping ourselves too.


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