This is how it started: two weeks ago I was listening to Pandora.com as I was getting ready in the morning and Maxwell‘s song “Pretty Wings” popped up, reminding me how much I love Maxwell. I didn’t realize it was a new song and thought maybe it was just one that I had missed in the past. When I got to work, I told my co-worker, who sits behind me and gets to hear about all my musical loves, about my excitement over hearing that Maxwell song.
“You must be really excited for his new cd then!” my co-worker exclaimed.
“What??!?!” I had had no idea that Maxwell had a new cd coming out after the 8 years since his last one. I had been excited about creating a new Maxwell station on Pandora; now I was over-the-top about the news of his new cd.
This is how it really started: In 1998, I graduated from college and moved to New York City to go to acting school full-time, and into an apartment on the Upper East Side with two of my best friends from high school. One of my roommates had Maxwell’s cds “Urban Hang Suite” and “MTV Unplugged” and introduced me to the wonder that is his music. She had been introduced to Maxwell’s music by her ex-boyfriend who had played his cds when they were still dating, while they were making out. I imagine that that guy smartly put Maxwell’s cds on permanent rotation in his bedroom cd player.
In my first New York City apartment, Maxwell cds were often playing, for musical enjoyment purposes not making out purposes, although I did go on to follow in my roommate’s footsteps and make out with my own boyfriend circa 2000 to the live version “Whenever Wherever Whatever” on the unplugged cd. I played Maxwell’s live version of “This Woman’s Work” off that same cd as emotional preparation when I was acting in plays where I had to be sad, crouched down backstage in the dark, or in a green room, listening to it repeatedly before going on. I had a painful break-up with boyfriend circa 2000, wrote a play about him, and used the aforementioned version of “Whenever Wherever Whatever” in the play’s soundtrack. Years later, I’ve happily divorced that beautiful song from the painful memories of the break-up and can deeply enjoy it once again.
In August of 2001 Maxwell’s last cd “Now” came out. I got it right away, and listening to the songs “Lifetime” and “Get to Know Ya” made me feel happy, and hopeful.
And I remember a mix of Maxwell songs on the soundtrack of my first few years living in New York City in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, woven in with the experiences of my 20’s when I was new to the city, everything was an adventure, and I was guided by my dreams.
This February, I was meeting my Dad and Stepmom for dinner at a French bistro in Manhattan. I got there early and was waiting at the bar when “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” came on. I felt flooded again with that same sense of happiness and thought, “I love this place!” After dinner I stopped at Barnes & Noble on my way home to buy my very own copy of “Urban Hang Suite,” because I have not lived with that Maxwell cd-owning roommate since Maxwell’s last cd came out.
Back to Summer 2009, for the past two weeks, I have been so excited about Maxwell’s new cd coming out, and have been listening to his music practically non-stop. And here’s the thing. Sometimes music can bring you so much joy, and just make you feeeeeel soooooo goooooood. And Maxwell’s music does exactly that. Several times over the past few weeks, I’ve been walking down the street when I’ve noticed anxious thoughts creep into my mind, and I’d start down the path of worrying about some insignificant thing that is a waste of my time and energy, but a familiar and seductive pattern nonetheless. And several times I’ve grabbed for my iPod Shuffle in those moments, shoved the headphones in my ears, and pressed play to “Pretty Wings.” I’ve discovered that hearing it just melts away my anxiety, and makes it pretty much impossible to give any time or energy to a negative worried thought, because all my energy becomes captivated by the music instead. And on a crowded subway, I will throw in those headphones again, and blast “Pretty Wings” or “Fortunate,” and suddenly I am literally bursting with energy and excitement (and sometimes dancing), oblivious to space-invading rush hour commuters, transported into a whole nother, more joyful, zone.
I got his much-anticipated new cd “BLACKsummers’night” yesterday, and today, I took what I called a “Maxwell Half-Day” at work, and went to see a free outdoor concert that he was doing for the CBS Early Show. I had wanted to go to his concert at NJPAC in Newark which was the closest show to NYC listed on his tour schedule, but it had sold out the week before. However, the same day I found out that that show was sold out, I learned about this free NYC one. Walking from the subway to the outdoor plaza where the CBS concert would be this morning, I was so excited that I started having difficulty breathing and I had to pop a Tums. It was an amazing, joyous show from an amazing, joyous performer, and it always inspires me how something so simple as a song, has the incredible power to transport, transform, uplift, and even, when needed, to cure anxiety.
Stay tuned, there is a good chance I will write more about Maxwell, and this just might turn into Maxwell Week on my blog…