Christmas songs FairyTale of new york by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

Welcome to the 3rd part of our series exploring the lessons that can be learned from well-known (and some not-so-well-known) Christmas tracks.  Today we are looking at relationships during the festive period and ways to keep them in good shape. 

Shane McGowan and Kirsty McCall, ‘Fairytale of New York’


Our first track is the well-worn soundtrack to many Christmas parties.  Although released back in 1987it is still the most played Christmas track with a BBC poll naming it the UK’s favourite Christmas track of all time.

The popularity of this track, which appeared on The Pogues album,‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God,’ may strike you as strange given the subject matter.  The Pogues’ lead singer, Shane McGowan, spends most of the time lyrically sparring with guest vocalist, Kirsty MacColl, reaching a crescendo of insults half way though the song.

Christmas is often heralded as the season of ‘Peace and Goodwill’ but sometimes these expectations can be unrealistic.  If you have had a challenging year in your relationship marked by rows and splits then spending long days with your partner can seem like one challenge too many.

Some friction is natural even in the best of relationships and disagreements can be positive if they lead to constructive problem solving.  However, if your relationship has been tough going for a while, it might be a good idea to sit down before Christmas and agree some ground rules so that you both make it through the holiday period.  For example, decide that if you feel tensions rising you will take some time out and come back to any point-of-conflict when you’re both feeling calmer. 

Aim to keep things as amicable as possible while you navigate the visits to the in-laws, the long lost friends and seldom-seen relations.  Try to avoid falling into the trap of expecting Christmas to provide a band-aid for your troubles. 

If things have been difficult for some time then a Christmas break is unlikely to make things better and spending more time together may make things worse.  More effective would be to put a date in your diary for the New Year so that you can plan constructive ways to deal with your relationship difficulties.

Joni Mitchell, ‘River’


‘River’ is a less well-known Christmas track although it is set during the holiday period and the strains of ‘Jingle Bells’ can be heard in the piano accompaniment to the song.  Joni Mitchell sings of the end of a relationship, associated regrets and the desire to move on:

‘Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby that I ever had

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.’

Joni Mitchell is one of the giants of rock music’s golden age with a creative output covering folk, pop and jazz. She has broken many barriers for women in the music industry as an archetypical 70s singer/songwriter with much of her output from that decade earning critical acclaim.  She is the highest ranking female guitarist of all time according to Rolling’s Stone magazine and is also an accomplished poet and artist.

‘River’ is the second most widely covered Joni Mitchell record(after ‘Both Sides Now’) having been recorded a staggering 432 times by artists as diverse as Barry Manilow and Sarah McLachlan. It documents the break-up of Mitchell’s relationship with Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame.  In turn, Nash wrote ‘Our House’ about happier times together. 

Like Joni Mitchell you may be facing Christmas ‘singing songs of joy and peace’ but may be filled with thoughts of what might have been. Perhaps even blaming yourself for your relationship break-up.  You may find yourself thinking like Mitchel who sings ‘I’m so hard to handle, I’m selfish and I’m sad, Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby that I ever had.’ 

Regardless of your current view it takes two to break a relationship just as it takes two to make a relationship. Don’t lose faith in yourself or your ability to form a happy relationship.  Above all, look after yourself over the holidays, eat as well as you can, exercise and make sure you get plenty of rest.  Sometimes we forget to look after ourselves during tough times and end up making ourselves feel even worse.

Ron Sexsmith, ‘Maybe This Christmas’


The festive season has a bad habit of turning us into a bah-humbug Grinch. The high street crowds, the TV ads, the endless Christmas songs on the radio (how ironic) and Christmas parties. Add in endless trips to see relatives, a touch of credit card debt and we have the recipe for a bad-mood-inducing festive season.

Thankfully we can turn to this wonderful, little known Christmas tune by Ron Sexsmith. It unashamedly asks us to consider the real reason for the season; peace, love and forgiveness.

As the lyrics suggest, maybe this Christmas we might all step out of long-held grudges and offer the olive branch of peace. Or maybe we might allow Christmas to challenge us to find a deeper meaning than the consumption of gifts, food and drink.

Counselling and support services


The Christmas period can be a difficult time for many of us. Whether it is due to a difficult relationship or memories of a lost loved one, we understand that not everyone is going to have a ‘happy’ Christmas this year.

At The Spark, we have been providing counselling and support to individuals, couples, families and children for over 50 years. Our aim is to help clients to better understand their emotions and experiences, and to find ways to deal with them.

Find out more information about The Spark and our counselling services for individuals, couples and families.

Contact us via our contact form or freephone 0808 802 0050 to talk about how counselling could help you.

12 plays of Christmas - Band Aid

What is the real meaning of Christmas?  In the second of our #12PlaysofChristmas series we are highlighting a couple of tracks that remind us that Christmas can be about more than consumerism and overindulgence.

Band Aid, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’


For those of a certain age, the Band Aid single of Christmas 1984 and Live Aid concert the following summer were era-defining moments. The recently released film, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ends (spoiler alert!) with a rousing finale as Freddy Mercury and Queen reunite to perform at Live Aid; an event that sees their reputation resurrected.

There is no doubt that fading pop stars and their careers were reinvigorated by Band Aid. However, putting cynicism to one side the efforts of Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and others did highlight the problems suffered by the Ethiopian people as well as galvanise support to do something about it.

A ‘turkey’ of a Christmas hit

The song is fairly standard fare with NME famously labelling it – rather mischievously – a ‘turkey’. Despite a poor critical reception people were encouraged to donate to the cause and the impact has been long lasting with cover versions, further concerts and additional charitable efforts like Comic Relief resulting in a significant charitable legacy.

We are often reminded that Christmas is about giving as much as receiving and rightly so. Not only does the concept of helping our fellow humans underpin every major religion, but giving is also a feel-good experience.  We are social creatures and doing something charitable, however modest, can be very satisfying and contribute to positive mental health.

Why not consider a way to benefit others this Christmas and help out those less fortunate than yourself with these gift ideas? (https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/deals/charity-gifts/.)

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, ‘Happy Christmas (War is Over)’


By listening to our second track we are hoping to encourage some quiet self-reflection during the holiday period.

John and Yoko spent several years on peace campaigns and protesting against US involvement in the Vietnam War.  This included highly publicised ‘bed-ins,’ a large-scale poster campaign and full-page adverts in major newspapers in the USA and UK.

Protest songs were a characteristic of John and Yoko’s earlier work together including such tracks as ‘Power to the People’ and ‘Give Peace a Chance’.  It is difficult to estimate the long-term impact of this work but, as an ex-Beatle, anything Lennon said or did was bound to be listened to by a large number of people.

Time to reflect on the year passed and the one yet to come

The opening lines of the song were always intended to challenge us to consider the impact of our own activities:

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun.

Many of us have a few days off work at this time of year and while we can be busy preparing food, visiting relations and catching up with friends, there is usually some downtime. This can be a great time to take stock of the previous year’s ups and downs.

It is worthwhile to ask ourselves: what did I do that I’m pleased with?  What were my disappointments? What would I like to do differently next year?

If New Year is the time for making resolutions, Christmas is the opportunity to consider our contribution to family, friends, work and community. This may be a new approach for you and so you may find it challenging. Like many things, however, practice makes perfect, and the tougher tasks are usually the most rewarding.

Alicia Keys, ‘Blended Family (What You Do For Love)’


You are unlikely to hear our final track on any Christmas Greatest Hits selection.  There is only a passing mention of Christmas and the track wasn’t even a big hit (although it did reach the lofty heights of 79 in Scotland’s official charts!).  Nevertheless, we believe this Alicia Keys track from 2016 contains some useful messages for a happy and positive festive season.

The song was based upon Keys’ relationships with her rapper husband Swizz Beatz (real name Kasseem Dean) and his previous marriage to singer Mashonda Tifrere.  Keys and Dean have two sons and the rapper also has 3 other children including a son with Tifrere.  Keys and Dean contributed to Tifrere’s book, ‘Blend: The Secret to Co-Parenting and Creating a Balanced Family’ and Keys’ subsequent track follows the book’s recommendation for creating a positive environment for children within blended families.

Families come in all shapes and sizes

You may find yourself in a similar situation to Keys, Dean and Tifrere this Christmas.  Blended families are common and it is entirely possible you may be welcoming stepsons and stepdaughters along with your own children over the holiday period.  Perhaps this is your first Christmas as a stepfamily and you are approaching it with some trepidation.

As our free parenting guide ‘Families Come in all Shapes and Sizes’ suggests, be prepared for everyone to feel a little unsettled. In particular, if this is your first Christmas together as a new, extended family.

It takes time for people to get to know each other, to start feeling comfortable and find a new family identity.  Everyone should have their own space, however small. Try to set aside time to get to know new arrivals and be patient with challenging emotions.

Christmas is a great time for doing things together – going for a long walk in the park or watching an old Christmas film– and this can help to forge new bonds and new traditions.  Above all, parents should try to work together like Alicia Keys has through her own blended family and hold true to the positive affirmation that ‘love could bring us closer than blood.’

Counselling and support services


The Christmas period can be a difficult time for many of us. Whether it is due to a difficult relationship or memories of a lost loved one, we understand that not everyone is going to have a ‘happy’ Christmas this year.

At The Spark, we have been providing counselling and support to individuals, couples, families and children for over 50 years. Our aim is to help clients to better understand their emotions and experiences, and to find ways to deal with them.

Find out more information about The Spark and our counselling services for individuals, couples and families.

Contact us via our contact form or freephone 0808 802 0050 to talk about how counselling could help you.

Christmas music

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Christmas (to paraphrase the song). To help get you in the mood we’re doing a playlist of well-known festive hits. Plus one or two Christmas-related tracks that may have passed you by.

If you have checked out our #SongsForSoundMinds playlist you will know that we like to mix a bit of music trivia with some suggestions for good mental health.  Our new playlist #The12PlaysOfChristmas is no different.

Alongside some slightly nerdy music facts, there will be tips for staying positive through what might be a difficult holiday period. We start with 3 Christmas hits from the early 1980s.

Wham, ‘Last Christmas’


Pop superstar George Michael penned this perennial festive hit, ‘Last Christmas’ in 1984 and it was released by Wham, the band George played in alongside Andrew Ridgely. To this day it is the biggest selling UK single never to reach number 1.

In the year of its original release it was held off the number 1 spot by Band Aid’s all-conquering, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’  Wham mirrored the stars of Band Aid and donated the royalties from ‘Last Christmas’ to the charity efforts in Ethiopia.

Coping with a broken heart at Christmas

The song itself is a poignant tale of frustrated love; a man ditched by his sweetheart after expressing his love. If you are recovering from a relationship breakdown yourself you may be wondering how you are going to cope with the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Especially when everyone else seems happily coupled.

However, as the song’s story relates, a failed romance can be a step to finding ‘someone special.’  It is possible to put regret in the past and to move on.  Indeed the end of a relationship can be a liberating experience.

Rather than fighting for something that was hurtful and time-limited it is possible to look forward with hope and make plans for the future.

Paul McCartney, ‘Pipes of Peace’


Christmas isn’t mentioned in the lyrics of this Paul McCartney track from 1983.  The main reason ‘Pipes of Peace’ takes its place in every self-respecting Christmas Greatest Hits compilation is the accompanying music video.

In it, we are transported to Christmas Day in 1914 when an impromptu football match took place between the British and German armies during the First World War. The news has been full of stories of the end of the First World War and that Christmas truce was a rare moment of humanity in a brutal campaign.

Macca is one of the most successful pop artists ever.  One of his many claims to fame is that he is the only person to have number one singles as a solo artist, a duo (with Michael Jackson among others), a trio (Wings), a quartet (The Beatles) and a quintet (‘Let it Be’ was credited to The Beatles and Billy Preston).

Tell stories, play games and be together at Christmas

 Family get-togethers over the Christmas period can be a good time to tell family stories, tragic as well as funny.  Storytelling can help everyone feel part of something bigger which is an important part of giving life meaning.

We enjoy being part of ‘the gang’ whether it’s with family, friends or work colleagues.  Feelings of togetherness and connectedness are good for even the most introverted of us.  Playing board games together, laughing at a well-worn Christmas DVD or going for Christmas Day walks all add to the fun.

The Pretenders, ‘2000 Miles’


The lyrics of this Pretenders’ track would lead you to think it’s an ode to long-distance love at Christmas.  Although this is not an uncommon theme for songs released at this time of year (‘Blue Christmas’ by Elvis Presley is only one example) it is not the motivation behind this hit from the Pretenders’ peak period.

The subject of this track, written by lead singer, Chrissie Hynde, is James Honeymann-Scott, the band’s original guitarist. Honeymann-Scott had died the previous year from drug-related heart failure at the age of just 25.  The track’s melancholic strains, together with the chiming lead guitar line, remind us that Christmas can bring sadness as well as joy.

It’s ok not to be ok at Christmas

Sometimes, the festive celebrations lead us only to thoughts of those who are no longer with us.  If someone close to you has died the prospect of Christmas may seem unbearable.  Grief takes its toll and it’s a process we all have to come to terms with.

Remember, it’s okay to feel sad, angry or upset. Even though you might experience great pressure to put on a happy face at Christmas time.  These feelings are natural particularly if the bereavement was recent.  Be aware that you may need to put time aside to look after yourself.

But this time of year can also be a positive opportunity. A chance to remember happy times you had with those who have passed away. Tell funny stories, share favourite memories and reflect on their importance in your life.

Christmas can be an opportunity to cherish and keep alive the memories you have of them.

Counselling and support services


The Christmas period can be a difficult time for many of us. Whether it is due to a difficult relationship or memories of a lost loved one, we understand that not everyone is going to have a ‘happy’ Christmas this year.

At The Spark, we have been providing counselling and support to individuals, couples, families and children for over 50 years. Our aim is to help clients to better understand their emotions and experiences, and to find ways to deal with them.

Find out more information about The Spark and our counselling services for individuals, couples and families.

Contact us via our contact form or freephone 0808 802 0050 to talk about how counselling could help you.

planet earth needs more people to look at the man in the mirror

Songs for Sound Minds #29 – ‘Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson


The latest choice for the #SongsForSoundMinds playlist encourages us to have a good look at ourselves and our motivations.

Are we the nice, thoughtful person we imagine ourselves to be or do we spend most of our time looking after number one?  As we’ll see, this is not just a philosophical rumination for – quite paradoxically – being kind to others can have acknowledged benefits for our own mental health.

Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson


At the peak of his ‘King of Pop’ powers, Michael Jackson continued a very long string of hit records with his early 1988 release, Man in the Mirror. This was one of a remarkable nine singles on his multi-million selling album, ‘Bad.’

The track starts with Jackson in a philosophical mood: ‘wind is blowing my mind’ (as Bob Dylan might have said) and this is opening his eyes to ‘kids in the street, with nothing to eat’ and ‘some with no home, not a nickel to loan.’  He realises there is a need for things to change and, because he’s been selfish, he needs to start with himself.

In the chorus, Jackson encourages us to look into the mirror ourselves: ‘If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.’  This sentiment paraphrases Mahatma Gandhi’s well-known maxim: ‘be the change that you want to see in the world.’

We, too, are encouraged to start with ourselves and, indeed, the official video for the song includes clips of Gandhi as well as Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela. All of these people put their own needs to one side in order to support the advancement of others.

The benefits of altruism


So, what is the benefit of this altruistic attitude encouraged by Man in the Mirror?  According to an article in The Independent committing an act of kindness releases certain ‘feel good’ chemicals into the body. Dopamine, which is associated with positive thinking, and Oxytocin, the ‘cuddle hormone’ are released as a result of a selfless act.

As it turns out being good to others can have a positive impact on our blood pressure and general mental health.

For those of you old enough to be in the Friends generation, it means Joey was right: there are technically no selfless good deeds.

Start with the man in the mirror…


Next time you look in the mirror and realise it has been all about you recently, consider the words of Man in the Mirror.

Try looking instead for opportunities to help others less fortunate. Do some fundraising, support your local food bank or pop in to visit an elderly neighbour. Whatever it is, big or small, an act of kindness will make a difference to someone in need and you’ll also be contributing to your own wellbeing.

As Michael Jackson wrote; ‘It’s gonna feel real good, gonna make it right.’


Songs For Sound Minds – music tracks written as anthems for overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.

Find more Songs for Sound Minds or suggest a track on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #SongsForSoundMinds

Taking the Long Way Around - the Grammy award-winning Dixie Chicks

Songs for Sound Minds #28 – ‘The Long Way Around’ by The Dixie Chicks


Our latest Songs for Sound Minds playlist pick could have been entitled ‘the hard way around’. The Long Way Around is a soulful, honest piece of country-pop that lays bare what it means to have the world crash down around you and still come out the other side.

The Long Way Around (aka the hard way around)


The inspiration for this Dixie Chicks track might be familiar. In London, during the band’s 2003 world tour, military action by the USA and its allies against Iraq seemed inevitable. Unhappy at the path being taken, lead singer Natalie Maines made a comment on stage that drew praise and approval from the audience:

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” 

A ferocious backlash


The comment, however, caused a ferocious backlash against the band at home. Their albums were destroyed in public, protests ensued, radio stations in their country-music heartlands pulled them from their playlists and death threats were made. The fallout brought what promised to be a very successful jump from country music to mainstream pop stardom to a grinding halt.

Shunned by their traditional audiences, the future of the band was in serious doubt. Maines had gone from hero to zero simply by standing up for what she believed. The band – together since 1995 – were, to a great extent, right back where they started.

The long way back to the top (aka The Long Way Around)


In spite of it all, the Dixie Chicks remained committed to each other and to Maines’ statement (a hastily released PR statement apologising to the President was later recanted). They dusted themselves off and started to rebuild by recording this song.

The Long Way Around focuses on what the band went through in the time after the ill-fated comment:

It’s been two long years now
Since the top of the world came crashing down
And I’m getting’ it back on the road now

But I’m taking the long way
Taking the long way around

Since the top of the world came crashing down is a clever dual reference to how their world fell in and the root cause: the infamous comment was made during their ‘Top of the World’ tour. Despite reflecting on the trials and tribulations they faced, the song still retains both positivity and a greater sense of wisdom and perspective.

Stand up for what you believe in


The Long Way Around is a brilliant track that offers great encouragement. First off, it asserts that it is still worth standing up for what you believe in.

I opened my mouth, and I heard myself
It can get pretty lonely when you show yourself
Guess I could have made it easier on myself

But I, I could never follow
No, I, I could never follow

Well, I never seem to do it like anybody else
Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down
If you ever want to find me, I can still be found

Taking the long way

As Winston Churchill said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Keep going


The second piece of inspiration is this: when it seems like the world is crashing down around you and the future seems bleak, keep going. As the Dixie Chicks discovered, despite the ‘haters’ life went on and the people that cared about them most stood by them. And they did so in droves.

Fans remained loyal to the band and the US leg of the tour was a huge success, despite initial fears fans would stay away in protest. The Long Way Around album went straight to number 1 in the USA upon its release and it won the Dixie Chicks five Grammys (every one they were nominated for).

Taking the Long Way Around - the Grammy award-winning Dixie Chicks

To quote Winston Churchill again: “If you are going through hell, keep going.” As the Chicks found out, a road back is possible, it might just take a little bit longer.


Songs For Sound Minds – music tracks written as anthems for overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.

Find more Songs for Sound Minds or suggest a track on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #SongsForSoundMinds

Stand by Me Ben E. King

Songs for Sound Minds #27 – ‘Stand by Me’ by Ben E. King


Today’s #SongsforSoundMinds entry – ‘Stand by Me’ – is a companion piece to one of our earlier picks.

In contrast to Chrissie Hynde’s assurance that, ‘I’ll Stand by You’, Ben E. King’s plea is ‘Stand by Me’.  Where The Pretenders are providing encouragement, Ben E. King is seeking the support of someone close, something we all need when times are tough.

Stand by Me: a song fit for a Royal wedding


‘Stand by Me’ was in the news recently as it received a soulful performance by Karen Gibson and the Gospel Choir during the Royal wedding.  Whatever your perspective on the Royals, the love between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was obvious for all to see and the Ben E King track provided a moving backdrop to the proceedings at Windsor Castle.

Stand by Me Ben E. King

Written in 1961 Ben E. King collaborated with the famous songwriting duo of Leiber and Stoller who have been responsible for over 70 chart hits including many for Elvis Presley (‘Hound Dog,’ ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and others).  ‘Stand by Me’ was the 4th most recorded song of the 20th century (according to BMI) and has appeared in films, TV commercials (Levi’s) and computer games (Final Fantasy XV sang by Florence and the Machine).

Remarkably it has been recorded by over 400 artists.

A rallying cry for the US black civil rights movement


It is a song that echoes through black culture and owes its routes to an early 20th-century gospel hymn which contained the words ‘will not we fear, though the Earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.’  It was a rallying cry of the black civil rights movement in America during the 1960s and the US Library of Congress acknowledged it as ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant’ in 2015.

The New York Times in its write up of the Royal wedding acknowledged the value of the song as a herald of a more inclusive Royal family with the biracial Meghan becoming Duchess of Sussex.

Will you stand by me forever?


For Harry and Meghan, is it too much of a stretch to see ‘Stand By Me’ as a musical equivalent of their wedding vows to ‘love, comfort, honour and protect, and, forsaking all others, be faithful as long as you both shall live’?  The song certainly worked its magic for Ben E. King who was married for over 50 years to his wife, Betty Nelson.

For us, the simple verses can symbolise the loyal and steadfast companionship that enables us to be strong even when times are troubled and turbulent.  See Verse 2 for a revision of the words of that early hymn.

‘If the sky we look upon

Should tumble and fall

And the mountains should crumble to the sea.

I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear

Just as long, as long as you stand by me.’


Songs For Sound Minds – music tracks written as an anthem for overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.

Find more Songs for Sound Minds or suggest a track on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #SongsForSoundMinds

Nina Simone I Got Life

Songs for Sound Minds #26 – ‘I Got Life’ by Nina Simone


‘I ain’t got no home, ain’t got no shoes
Ain’t got no money, ain’t got no class
Ain’t got no skirts, ain’t got no sweater
Ain’t got no perfume, ain’t got no bed’

Why is it that we often focus on the negative side of things? Glass half empty, not half full. Counting our tribulations, not our blessings. Sometimes we seem stuck in a rut imagining all the things that might go wrong and all the things that we believe are ‘wrong’ with our life.

This melancholy outlook on life is exhibited perfectly in the opening lines of this Nina Simone classic. Focused on the negatives and downsides of life, she sounds like a women concentrating on the things to be upset, scared or worried about.

I got life… for now, says the caveman


One explanation for this behaviour offered by psychologists and sociologists is that it is a primitive instinct.

The caveman that was vigilant to danger was more likely to survive than his ever-optimistic friend. While the former considered rustling in the bushes a reason to be on guard, the latter headed towards them in wide-eyed anticipation. In that situation, expecting the worst – a sabre-tooth tiger perhaps – was a necessary element of survival.

Thankfully these days we only need to avoid overly-pushy double-glazing salespeople or high-street ‘chuggers’. But the mind-set remains for many of us.

In maintaining such an outlook on life, we risk falling into a life of constant pessimism and, potentially, isolation and depression. There is a reason Eeyore – from AA Milne’s much-loved Winnie the Pooh stories – was always alone.

Forget the bad things, I got life


Simone’s song takes a sudden positive turn however and we realise that it is not about darkness after all but rather it is about the opposite:

‘I got my arms, got my hands

Got my fingers, got my legs

Got my feet, got my toes

Got my liver, got my blood’

The song is encouraging us to acknowledge the simple things in life, to appreciate what we already have and to stop worrying about what we don’t have or might never have.

Nina Simone I Got Life

Nina Simone was a prominent activist in the US civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. She experienced first-hand the segregation and discrimination of the time. Despite her natural musicality and training as a classical pianist, she failed to gain entry to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia due to the colour of her skin.

Simone’s personal experiences and that of African-Americans throughout history give added meaning to another of the song’s verses:

‘Ain’t got no mother, ain’t got no culture

Ain’t got no friends, ain’t got no schooling

Ain’t got no love, ain’t got no name

Ain’t got no ticket, ain’t got no token

Ain’t got no God’

But in spite of all of this, she still proclaims the virtues of maintaining that positive attitude to what life throws at you.

Celebrate life today


‘I Got Life’ is a real celebration.  There are always reasons to choose the positive side of life, no matter how bad things seem or how difficult the way ahead looks.

Nina Simone’s exuberant response to adversity brings to mind the words of poet Maya Angelou, another civil rights activist:

‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.’


Songs For Sound Minds – music tracks written as an anthem to overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.

Find more Songs for Sound Minds or suggest a track on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #SongsForSoundMinds

The Pretenders I'll Stand by You cover artwork

Songs for Sound Minds #25 – ‘I’ll Stand by You’ by The Pretenders

This week’s pick by The Pretenders was suggested by one of our followers on Facebook: a timeless classic about love and faithfulness in times of trouble. A song made special, not by the experiences of those who wrote it, but by those who heard it.


‘I’ll Stand by You’ started out as a joke that turned into a dream come true for songwriter Billy Steinberg. During a conversation with music publisher Jason Dauman, Steinberg was asked who he wanted to collaborate with in the future.

Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Chrissie Hynde

Thinking the question a joke, Steinberg replied somewhat facetiously: “Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Chrissie Hynde.”

“I said those names because they were three of my favorite songwriters and he sort of took it seriously. Then a little while later he called me up and he said, ‘Chrissie Hynde wants to write with you and Tom (Tom Kelly, Steinberg’s writing partner).’  And I thought, ‘Right.’”

“I get a phone call and this woman said, ‘Billy, this is Chrissie Hynde,’ and I thought somebody was playing with me or something.”

Star struck and a little soft

Despite writing hits like ‘Eternal Flame’ and ‘Like a Virgin’, Steinberg was star struck: “The butterflies in my stomach were fluttering so much I could barely speak because I love The Pretenders.”

Hynde joined Steinberg and Kelly in Los Angeles and their efforts created a total of six songs, including ‘I’ll Stand by You’; but Pretenders fan Steinberg had mixed feelings.

“I remember when we wrote it I felt two things. I felt one, we had written a hit song; and I felt two, a little sheepish that we had written something a little soft, a little generic for The Pretenders… I know that Chrissie felt that way too to some extent.”

The dream turns sour

In an interview with Mojo Chrissie Hynde admitted being unimpressed with the tune: “When I did that song, I thought, Urgh this is s–t.”

The Pretenders I'll Stand by You cover artwork

As the dream turned sour for Steinberg hope emerged in the form of an impromptu gig.

Despite her initial disappointment with the track, Hynde pressed on: “I played it for a couple of girls who weren’t in the [music] business and by the end of it they were both in tears. I said, OK, put it out.”

The universality of the lyrics that Steinberg feared were too soft and generic is exactly what makes ‘I’ll Stand by You’ such a special song.

It speaks of complete love and unquestioning support when we are at our weakest. The kind of love that means someone is there to wipe away our tears and walk with us.

Thanks to Steinberg, Kelly and Hynde we can experience the shared understanding that we all feel that way sometimes. And that we all want to be there to stand by someone we care about.


Songs For Sound Minds – music tracks written as an anthem to overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.

Find more Songs for Sound Minds or suggest a track on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #SongsForSoundMinds

Songs for Sound Minds #24 – ‘Get on With Your Short Life’ by Brian Kennedy


Our latest pick in the Songs For Sound Minds series could very well have been written specifically for January. An antidote if you will to a month spent grappling with our extra ‘holiday weight’, body image angst and post-Christmas diets.

get on with your short life

Celebrity awards season is in full swing and between the Grammys and the Oscars there are plenty of opportunities feel bad about ourselves compared to the ‘beautiful people’.

Many of us will have fallen off the healthy eating bandwagon and simultaneously wondered why our waistline isn’t shrinking.  All in all it is not difficult to find reasons to be unhappy about who we are at this time of year.

Why do you have to waste time on your waistline?

Instead of committing to another fad diet or dropping your hard-earned cash on yet more clothes, we have another suggestion.

Listen to one of Ireland’s most under-rated singer songwriters, Brian Kennedy and his simple advice: get on with your short life.

You know you’re only dreaming

Accompanied by one of the catchiest of catchy tunes, ‘Get on With Your Short Life’ is a worthwhile reminder of how we tend to focus on the wrong things in life.

Clothes, looking younger and the aspiration to be like those on the red carpet can dominate our thinking. We end up tied in knots trying to be the version of ourselves we think will bring the most happiness.

get on with your short life
Of course she woke up looking like this…

The tragedy of it all is that we miss out on ‘this sweet precious time’ that is life. The time we spend pursuing the right shoes, new clothes and the ‘perfect’ waistline cannot be recovered.

It is time with loved ones, experiencing the joy and security of good relationships that is lost forever.

Stop daydreaming and get on with your short life

As Brian suggests, stop the ‘if only’ daydreaming and get on with enjoying this short life. You’ll be glad you did.


Songs For Sound Minds – music tracks written as an anthem to overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.

Find more Songs for Sound Minds or suggest a track on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #SongsForSoundMinds

Songs for Sound Minds #23 – ‘This Will Be Our Year’ by The Zombies


So, have you made your New Year Resolutions? Have you been inspired by a healthy eating blog to change your bad eating habits? Maybe you were in the local gym on January 3 planning to go from ‘Couch to 5k’.

‘What is the point?’ you might say. According to BUPA, 80 per cent of people do not make it to the end of March before going back to their old ways.

Research from the University of Bristol found that 88% of us will not keep our resolution.

Nothing much is achieve without the resolve to achieve something

But before you get too cynical it is worthwhile remembering that nothing much is achieved without the resolve to achieve something.

There is much to be said for the 1960s slogan, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life.’ It speaks of putting past failures and disappointments behind us. It encourages positivity and looking ahead with anticipation instead of dread.

Storm clouds

Another gem from the same period – the song ‘This Will Be Our Year’ – has the same feel to it. Compared to some of the starry-eyed hits from the time, it is a pretty down-to-earth and pragmatic song.

And I won’t forget

The way you helped me

Up when I was down

And I won’t forget

The way you said

Darling I love you

You gave me faith to go on

Now we’re there

And we’ve only just begun

This will be our year

Took a long time to come

Getting through tough times

Whether you have experienced a period of poor mental health or just a tough time in general, there are few feelings better than the relief when it is over.

Often our optimism for the future comes from knowing we can rely on those who helped us through tough times – for the first time or once again.

For those in the know, the song was the soundtrack to Don Draper’s daughter bringing him light at the end of his dark tunnel in the acclaimed TV series Mad Men by telling him, ‘I love you.’

One of the greatest albums of all time

The Zombies’ track, ‘This Will Be Our Year’ was from their 1968 album with the misspelled title, ‘Odessey and Oracle’. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it 100 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Their keyboard player, Rod Argent, is perhaps one of the less well-known artists of the era.  He did go on to form the eponymous band, Argent, which had hits with ‘Hold Your Head Up’ and ‘God Gave Rock and Roll to You’. The latter track was covered by Kiss and featured in the film ‘Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey’ in the late 1980s.

As you listen to our latest pick in the Songs For Sound Minds series, why not take a look at our article ‘6 Ways to Keep a New Year Resolution’ for some practical tips on making positive change this year.

There is no reason why this can’t be our year.


Songs For Sound Minds – music tracks written as an anthem to overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.

Find more Songs for Sound Minds or suggest a track on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #SongsForSoundMinds