Music will take you home

I was 5 years old, and I still remember looking out at the Palm Beach Gardens palm trees through teary eyes the first time I heard “I Will Take You Home” by the Grateful Dead. Keyboardist Brent Mydland wrote the song about protecting his daughter, a “little girl lost in a forest of dreams.” My parents took me to 10 Grateful Dead shows as a child, from around that time until frontman Jerry Garcia died. Each time I heard that song live, I would hold on to my dad and cry. I still can’t listen to Mydland’s voice sing “Just when everything gets scary, Daddy’s coming ‘round for his darlin’ again” without feeling tears sting my eyes and pangs fill my chest.

What is it about music? Is it the melody? The lyrics? The beat? How does it have the ability to make people feel so deeply?

Music can understand you when you're   heartbroken, uplift you when you’re down, and inspire you when you’re lost. It can forge your identity, and remind you of your true self if you lose your way. It can take you back to an exact place and time, and make you remember a feeling and a moment.

Garcia’s warm voice and the Dead’s jamming guitars bring me back to my childhood. The harmonica over the piano of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” makes me feel like I’m in my black-box high school theater, surrounding the piano with drama kids singing “I’m sure that I could be a movie star if I could get out of this place.”

Bob Dylan’s distinctive warbling of his poetic lyrics “It’s alright Ma, it’s life and life only” takes me to the 101 freeway, my mom commiserating with me over my sophomoric pain as she drove me down from Berkeley to move to LA to attend acting school.

The guitar strums of Pearl Jam’s “Low Light” take me back to my fiance’s old olive green sponge-painted room when we first fell in love.

The many musical genres — from rock ‘n’ roll to musical theater, from bluegrass to dance pop, from hip-hop to jazz, and from R&B to soul — all have the ability to permeate the mindset and change the way people feel, for better or worse. Music can set people free from their feelings or leave them immersed in their thoughts. Relatable lyrics can hold profound meaning beyond the words themselves.

In this special issue, we examine these aspects of music and more. We investigate the role of song in society, athletics, academics, and the arts. We delve into the psychology of music, its therapeutic uses, and its evolution with the dawn of the digital age.

We look at some of the less favorable associations of music, hypersexualization in the industry and a glorified drug culture.

We explore the universal, timeless nature of music, and its uncanny ability to transcend reality and unite people together.