The Song That Changed Everything

Sometime we wait years for something wonderful to happen. And then when it does, one little thing — a song, for example ­–can make all the difference.

by Christopher Kent

When I first moved to New York City, I believed that something was waiting for me there — something wonderful that would change my life forever. I assumed it was fame and fortune that awaited me. As it turned out, the Big Apple would bestow countless gifts upon me — just not the ones I was expecting! And, as it turned out, the greatest gift of all depended on a song.

It all began on a Sunday night in early September. At the stroke of midnight, something totally unexpected happened.

Lynn, a remarkably tall young woman who earned her living as a freelance graphic artist, had been working all evening in her Upper East Side apartment. Outside her window, overlooking First Avenue, the sound of taxis and the occasional heavy truck rolling by echoed off the buildings across the street; like most New Yorkers, she had long since become oblivious to the sound. Instead, she paid attention to the radio. She had on her favorite station, New York’s only commercial jazz station, WRVR. It was at the stroke of midnight that her familiar routine was abruptly altered.

“That was Spyro Gyra’s latest,” said the DJ as the recording faded out. “Coming up next, we have….” there was a confused pause… “Waylon Jennings?” Lynn sat up, stunned. Clearly, the DJ was equally stunned. And then…on came Waylon Jennings, singing his latest country hit. Uncertain what was going on, but with a strong suspicion that she wasn’t going to be happy about it, Lynn continued listening. On came another country tune, and another.

It wasn’t until the following day that she found out what had happened. The huge American corporation Viacom had purchased the radio station, and, unhappy with the amount of advertising revenue it was pulling in, had decided it might make more money as New York’s only country music station. They had sent a truck to the studio that afternoon, and without telling the DJ on the air, they had simply removed all the jazz recordings and replaced them with country records. Having already selected his choices for the evening, the DJ had no idea that he was about to lose his job…until someone handed him the Waylon Jennings record at midnight.

Since WRVR had been New York’s only commercial jazz station, this was a serious blow to the artists whose recordings had been getting airplay. Without it, they had no media outlet for their work in one of the major music centers-not to mention jazz centers-of the world. Unlike those artists, Lynn’s income didn’t depend on the station playing commercial jazz, but she was angry and upset that a corporation had simply blown the jazz that she loved completely off of New York radio. It seemed like the stereotypical corporate, mean-spirited action, done to increase the bottom line without any concern for the artists or the listeners who tuned in every day.

Lynn soon found out that New York’s jazz artists weren’t going to take this lying down. For starters, they had already planned to picket in front of the Viacom building that Wednesday. Lynn decided she would join them. An unusually tall young woman-standing 6’3″ in her bare feet-she thought she’d put her height to good use, helping to make an impression with the others who came to protest.

The Viacom building was a tall structure on the corner of 6th Avenue and 48th Street. That Wednesday turned out to be sunny and beautiful. Lynn rode her bike downtown, but when she arrived she realized she’d come early; no other protesters were anywhere to be seen.

Viacom, of course, wasn’t the only company with offices in that building. As it happened, one of the other companies at that address was an entertainment industry law firm. I happened to be working at that law firm, managing their file room to pay the rent while I sang in clubs in the evenings and on weekends.

One of the lawyers asked me to run an errand outside of the building. I was happy to comply; it was a chance to get out on a lovely September day. I rode down in the elevator, and as I exited the lobby and walked across the plaza in front of the building I saw a remarkable sight; one of the tallest women I’d ever seen-a beautiful woman besides-was locking her bicycle to a park bench. Being 6’4″ tall myself, and recently having been through a long dry spell in the dating arena, this was potentially manna from heaven.

She had her back to me as she stood at the far end of the bench, tying up the bike. So, I walked over quietly and sat down on the bench, totally unnoticed. “Do you always ride your bike?” I asked. I had always been told I should be on the radio myself, thanks to a mellifluous deep voice, and the sound of my voice got her attention. She turned around, smiling, to see who was speaking to her. Now that I had her attention, I stood up, and — as she later described it — I “kept getting taller and taller!” Being almost the same height, we ended up smiling eye to eye.

Since no one had yet arrived for the protest rally, Lynn was free to talk for a few minutes, and I figured I also had a few minutes to spare. So, we took a seat in front of the building and introduced ourselves. It was immediately obvious that there was chemistry between us, and we soon discovered we had many shared interests. Not the least of those was music: I was a singer-songwriter; she was a classically-trained former concert harpist (turned graphic artist).

After ten or fifteen minutes of chatting, I told her I would love to sing her a song of mine; I offered to sing it acapella (without accompaniment). She immediately held up her hand and said, “Oh no, that’s okay.” So, we continued talking instead. By then, other protesters began arriving, and I had to get on with my errand.

“I can come out again later when I take a coffee break,” I said.

“That sounds great,” she replied, still smiling. So, she walked over to join the growd that was organizing, and I went on my way.

An hour or two later, after I’d been back on the job for a while, I took my coffee break and headed down to the lobby again. Outside, the protesters had been marching in a circle for over an hour, and they were taking a brief break. I flagged Lynn down again, and we continued our conversation. Just as before, we were hitting it off like two people who’d been best friends for years.

After a few minutes I made a second offer to sing her a song. I had the perfect song in mind. I had written it for the love of my life — the catch was that I hadn’t actually met the person the song was written for yet! To be honest, I wasn’t absolutely sure that this tall, lovely woman would turn out to be the love of my life, but I was willing to take that chance.

Once again, Lynn put me off with a smile. “That’s okay,” she said. I had no way of knowing it at the time, but the reason she didn’t want to hear me sing was that she really liked me. As a classically-trained musician she had very high standards for music, and she was worried that I wouldn’t be very good. That, she thought, would spoil what seemed like a lovely potential match!

We decided we should meet for dinner. Because she was a good cook, she invited me to her house for that Friday night. Then, still smiling, we said goodbye to return to filing and protesting, respectively.

For our Friday night date, Lynn had invited a girlfriend to join us as a safety backup (just in case I turned out to be much more sinister than I had first appeared). I turned up on time, my guitar in hand, but her friend was hours late in arriving. So, Lynn and I ending up having a lovely dinner alone. There was much laughter and sharing of stories.

After dinner we moved into the living room. With a stern look, I said, “Now sit down, because I’M GOING TO SING YOU A SONG!” And with that, I pulled out my guitar, made sure it was in tune, and began singing.

Before continuing, please listen to the song that Chris sang.

Within a few moments, Lynn’s concerns were gone. From my perspective she sort of…melted. By the end of the song, we both knew that something magical had happened.

It was only a few days later that I asked her to marry me.

She said yes!

© 2007 by Christopher Kent. ­All Rights Reserved