I Wanna Be a Kennedy
The Song that Saved My Life
For Steven, everything was a search for music. For new bands, new artists that were doing something new. Mainstream music was rarely innovative for him.
Growing up, I had developed a similar taste for ingenuity, seeking out bands, songs, sounds, that were unique to what the other kids in my sheltered little community were listening to. My family had an old model satellite dish, the ones the size of a Volkswagen, that you had to adjust manually. One person outside turning the crank, another person watching the television to shout back when the picture was clear. With it, I dialed in an obscure cable access-style music channel, akin to MTV or VH1 but it actually played music videos. I found dozens of bands and songs no one I knew had ever heard of.
So, when I connected with Steven, our combined hunger for creative music was amplified, leading him to expose me to so much music I never would have found on my own. He showed me ways to find sounds that were more effective than just one song at a time on MTV-U in my university cafeteria. In the time we spent together, in the short bursts when we were in the same city, in our hours spent on the phone, we shared so much music. We would get into his car and turn on a new album he had found. We would drive until we had listened to it top to bottom, every song.
When he ended our engagement, I was face to face with a music library laden by nothing but memories of him. I didn’t listen to anything but top 40 radio for a couple of months, certain that was the best way to avoid those songs we’d shared. In the meantime, I descended so deeply into my grief over the loss of our future together, those closest to me feared I would go to sleep and never wake up. Broken heart syndrome is when the stress of grief is so great, major organs stop functioning properly.
I eventually found my way to social media. At the time, the MySpace platform was reaching its pinnacle, LiveJournal was still a semi-private blogging site, and Facebook had yet to find its footing. MySpace was working to become the ultimate source in music networking. Connecting fans to the sounds they wanted to hear. Part of that was separating artists by the label affiliation listed in their profile “about” section. I was searching “unsigned” and “independent” artists, deciding based on profile pictures, primarily, if I wanted to listen to what they had to offer.
At the top of my search on one of those days, I found a five piece of three boys and two androgynous creatures in multiple layers of both clothing and hair products and heavy black eyeliner. Their look grabbed my attention so I followed the link. At the other end, I found a breathy, straining voice and an hypnotic pulse from a bass guitar. “I wanna be a Kennedy,” the scratched tenor declared, before launching into a synthesized electric rock ode to the legacy of opulence connected to the Kennedy dynasty.
There was a wanton urgency in that voice, something that drew me in. I wanted more. For the first time in months I was finding real emotion in something, more importantly, in a lifelong love that had betrayed me so viciously. I had been numb, not truly feeling my anger, my grief, my heartbreak. But in the first few seconds of that track, I started to feel emotions. It was a flood of so many different things. I could feel the compulsion in the voice I was listening to, over and over again. I could feel pure elation at my discovery. And within a short time, I started feeling all of the things I had not been able to feel. All of the pain, the anger, the sorrow, the destruction.
I am not saying that one song flipped a switch and healed me. It took several more months before healing could even be considered. But I was no longer numb.
In the years that have passed since, that song has remained a source of comfort to me. I have seen it performed live thirteen times, including once in a private, acoustic session in my sister’s living room. And every time, it washes away everything plaguing my mind or my heart. For four minutes, I am completely at peace, lost in the moment, lost in that throbbing bass line, feeling it through my flesh, my bones.
There were other tracks in that time of healing that aided in the process but the catalyst was Kennedy.