Music and Destiny

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What, or in this case rather more appropriately, who is in charge of the melody of life, who directs the seemingly unbending force that coordinates our journeys and defines our futures? Are we all chess pieces in an elaborate chess game? Is our every move pre-determined, predictable and inconsiderate to our own wants and cravings? These questions and the seemingly glaring notion of an inescapable fate is one that has intrigued songwriters, ballad composers, and music artists for centuries past and as is expected reflected in the soulful renditions of their experiences.

For Norman Blake, Gerard Love, Raymond McGinley and Francis MacDonald, members of the Scottish alternative rock band Teenage Fanclub, there is no supernatural force or orchestrator. All our affirmations of such an authority stem from the insincere union of our innate fears and flamboyant ignorance. In their 1991 song ‘Star sign,’ they sing:

‘Hey, there’s a horseshoe on my door; big deal.

And say there’s a black cat on the floor, big deal.

Hey’ there’s a side of me unknown, big deal.

And say, should this unknown force be shown, big deal.’

Their rendition, though seemingly naïve, yet, at a second glance could possibly be actually valid, at least when you look at it from their point of view – that of a teenager. Indeed, very few people encounter the force of destiny while they are still teenagers; it takes a while to get accustomed to its loving (and sometimes scarring) embrace. In her 1970’s song titled the ‘Circle Game’ Joni Mitchell resonates the ideology of most ‘adults’:

‘And tearful at the falling of a star.

And the seasons they go round and round.

And the painted ponies go up and down. 

We’re captive on the carousel of time. 

We can’t return we can only look behind from where we came.

And go round and round and round, in the circle game.’

Round and round in the circle game we thrive, all that has happened and all that will be, already set in stone, and we are mere puppets playing out a fully plotted scene.

Some adults, however, share the sentiments of Teenage Fanclub in a more refined state. The idea of self-determination, the ability to manipulate and mold one’s destiny into a pleasant outcome is one that has substantial followership and among its ardent followers was English rock band Talk Talk.

In their 1986 song ‘Life’s What You Make it’ from the album ‘The Colour of Spring’ the group reiterates the growingly popular, roll up your sleeves, take on life and retrieve from it what it owes you notion – because after all, life’s what you make of it.

‘Baby, life’s what you make it can’t escape it, Baby, yesterday’s favorite don’t you hate it?

(Everything’s all right) Life’s what you make it (Everything’s all right).’

Again, while such a belief does hold water from a particular point of view, given that it makes more sense to hassle with life instead of relapsing into a state of nothingness, the song’s subtle assertion that everything’s alright revealed it’s overly optimistic tone – because…everything is not always all right.

Travel back in time from Talk Talk’s ‘Life’s what you make of it’, to a mantra and the perspective of The Incredible String Band, and you’ll a more realistic view of how life works. The Incredible String Band’s ‘Eye of Fate’ song released in 1967 as a single from their ‘The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion Album’. It summarizes their conceptions about destiny and fate. –

We’re oblivious to the mechanisms of its working and subject to its bidding.

‘Oh, who can see in the eyes of fate?

All life alone in its chronic patterns oh, swan, let me fly you to the land of no winds blowing I know nothing, and know that I know nothing;

all is in the eye and in its blinks of seeing so just like the morning the ghost of the following day.’

When it comes to destiny and fate, we seem to know nothing. For a man could wake up one morning, head out and get struck by lightning or switch on the TV and realize that he is the winner of the lottery.

The principles of destiny explain quite a number of earthly scenarios; why love triumphs in overbearing circumstances, and, for Chaka Khan - the multiple Grammy award winner and widely acclaimed queen of funk - it was the only explanation for her love life.

It was why she found love in her uncharacteristically lonely life.

‘When you walked into my lonely life tonight I saw my destiny, I saw eternity tonight.

And the moment I held you I knew it.

What we do is decided before we do it.

Fate, this could only be Fate.

I never thought I’d believe in Fate, now I understand.

It’s part of the plan, I was meant to be your woman.’

If you look deeper into the idea of destiny, it explains why seemingly impossible events occur in life, it explains why poor, ‘useless’ people overcome their daunting limitations to triumph over life, and, it also explains why many wealthy and influential individuals recluse to a sorry tale descent and disappointment.

Destiny explains why the son of King Louis XVI and Maria Antoinette, despite being innocent and of royal blood would die the death of a beggar. Louis XVII, saddled with a sad destiny was born at a time when the French revolution was gaining momentum. As a child, he was imprisoned and cajoled into testifying against his mother and aunt. Following the death of his father and mother, the young prince was left at the mercy of enemies to the throne. At age ten, alone, helpless and afflicted with various diseases, Prince Louis XVII succumbed to death.

In memory of the innocent but ill-fated prince, Victor Hugo eulogized:

‘The golden gates were opened wide that day,

All through the unveiled heaven there seemed to play Out of the Holiest of Holy, light;

And the elect is held, crowd immortal,

A young soul led up by young angels bright,

Stand in the starry portal.

A fair child fleeing from the world’s fierce hate, 

In his blue eye the shade of sorrow sate, 

His golden hair hung all disheveled down.

On wasted cheeks that told a mournful story,

And angels twined him with the innocent’s crown,

The martyr’s palm of glory.

The virgin souls that to the Lamb are near,

Called through the clouds with voices heavenly clear:

”God hath prepared a glory for thy brow;

Rest in his arms, and all ye hosts that sing.

His praised ever on an untired string,

Chant, for a mortal comes among ye now; Do homage,–’tis a king!”

When destiny plays you its cards, and when you’re forced to bend to its unyielding power, what should you do?

Contrary to Talk Talk’s ‘confront life head on’ belief, Greenwolfe 1962 reiterates the now widely accepted view ‘accept your fate and move on’. In his Acceptance of Fate poem, the poet clearly resonates that destiny respects no man; it can uplift, downtrod or stagnate any figure regardless of proceedings.

What remains is to recognize its unmovable force and then continue towards living.

‘Acceptance of each circumstance, Is one great truth of life.

But often, comes at quite a cost, much suffering, and strife.

Acceptance then, includes the fate You choose on fateful days.

To leave this world a sacrifice, Or live in other ways.

The hardest thing to realize, When all is said and done;

Accepting losses in one’s life, Is one sure sign you’ve won.’

For Greenwolfe, recognizing the power of destiny itself is the first step towards success, realizing that as humans we are subject to the will of the fate positions us on a pedestal to peace and tranquil

  • Whatever Will be, Will be

Virtually all millennials and a significant part of the baby boomers, grew up with the tunes of ‘Que Sera, Sera- whatever will be will be’ humming in the background. Like a siren, the lyrics of this song gave a subtle reminder of the eternal law of life – whatever will be, will be.

Indeed, whatever will be will be; the sun will rise, the moon will puncture the night sky, and our destinies will eventually become clear as a part of the cycle of life.

This 1956 lyrical masterpiece written by Ray Evans and revered for its simple yet metaphorical imagery first demoed in Hitchcock’s movie The Man Who Knew Too Much. It provides an insight into the film and summarizes the submission of Ray Evans who, despite being born into a deeply religious family, despised religion and its workings. His faltering relationship with religion, though significant at the point of life, was subject to the hands of destiny because:

‘The future’s not ours to see’ ‘- ‘whatever ever will be, will be’ - ‘what will be, will be.’

The way fate works, Ray Evans could wake up the next day, as was with Saul in the Bible, and develop a staunch likeness for religion or he could continue walking the path of dislike. Both scenarios are possible because the future’s not ours to see, but perhaps subject to a greater force of workings and motives.