Wellness Wednesdays #3: Music Heals



Today is the third installment of a weekly series where I will ask a question related to the themes on my blog (mental health, self-care, community, poetry, etc.).  I am trying to get people talking, build a sense of community and increase awareness about mental health, a topic I am intensely committed to.  I want to see what’s going on in people’s heads, hear their stories, and gain some perspective and solutions.  This week’s question is:

What album/artist/music  helped get you through a particularly hard emotional time? Why? What song stood out the most?


As soon as I typed these words, I immediately knew my answer.  Truly a no-brainer.  The incomparable musician/writer/composer/genius/life-saver Donny Hathaway saved my life.  No hyperbole in any of this. Nope.  On a potentially fateful weekend, I sat at the end of a 3 week period of continuous seclusion watching Law & Order reruns, rather watching me.  Mind racing like a manic track meet.  Witt’s End has got to be a clever street name somewhere, but it was my reality.  Turn channel and first channel surfing wave I hit is “Unsung: Donny Hathaway,” a documentary series recognizing and telling the story of Black musical artists who didn’t get the accolades they deserved.  I had always been aware of Donny Hathaway’s music.  I mean who could escape “This Christmas” during the holiday season.  And beyond the heart-ripping song, “A Song For You.”  And beyond his Roberta Flack duets, I really didn’t know much about him.


The documentary, as music docs go, ended in tragedy.  Donny, a paranoid schizophrenic, took his own life in the end.  His spiral was documented by people who were around.  Though, I didn’t have that particular illness, the pattern sounded so familiar. The isolation.  The strange behavior that people excuse as your “personality.”  So, in my natural fashion, I started googling every song, interview, concert even remotely related to Mr. Hathaway.  The music kickstarted a deluge of all my shit.   Awwwllll.  I cried, I cried, and then more tears dropped.  The music was haunting and soulful.  I felt it physically, synesthesia took the sounds and made them distribute to every nerve ending. I could hardly inhale the music, the melodies were humid and viscous.  Yeah, shit got thick.  After listening for 20-plus hours, one song kept surrounding me, a hug from the universe perhaps, “Someday We’ll All Be Free.”  That song and chorus reminded me and convinced me that one day we will make it.  We can withstand the spin of the world.  WE.  Just the existence of a WE and a FREE convinced me for a few more weeks not to end my life.  Gave me the clarity, after I failed, to carry on.  I got it tattooed on me so I will never forget.  I didn’t.


someday we'll all be free tattoo music

dis me.



This week I got some of my favorite fellas in on the act, and they did not disappoint, these are their responses:


Eyan Spaulding, a pal I’ve known in these social media streets for many years answered:

I really just sat here thinking about an answer for a good 15 minutes, man. Music therapy is a large part of my self care routine and also battling episodes of depression so everything rolls together most times. Whenever possible, I have music playing so it’s kind of hard for me to pinpoint exactly one artist or album that’s helped me through some bad times. I can try though.

Any album or project by Samon Kawamura
Any album or project by Beat-Maker-Beat aka SpaceKid aka WayneTweed
Any album or project by Oddisee
Any beat project by Abnormal
Anything Led Zep
Anything Queen
To Serve With Love by Black Spade
Myriad Of Now by Hawthorne Headhunters, ESPECIALLY the song “Luv Galactic”. MY GAWD
I hope this list helps someone.


My lifelong friend and brother in poetry, Tavis Brunson (he fancy as hell), responded:

When I was first approached with these questions, of course a dozen things rushed forward in my mind…of Tavis. (Sorry, shameless plug, won’t happen again.) Music is that thing, man, that just transcends and takes us to another place. Any…place but here.

Ok, I’m gonna stop writing like I’m at Woodstock and get to the point. It was around 2002. I was living in Orlando and my home was a hotel. A nice one, for me. Suburban Lodge. Bus right across the street. Convenience store and Checkers on the corner. I was good.

But this wasn’t what I wanted to be considered good. I was stuck in a place between being thankful for what I do have and knowing I could have so much more. Grateful yet complacent but I was messing it up badly. I was very up and down about it. One day I’m celebrating finally finding a job with the good cigarettes and Natty Ice and the next wanting to jump over the railing and the only thing keeping me from doing it is I know I’d mess it up…like everything else…and not die.

Enter The Eninem Show.

I’ve always loved Eminem’s music. I always said, “You may not like what he says but you can’t deny the genius in the way he said it. But this was different. I listened to the CD and was a few tracks in, enjoying myself and then I hear this:

“I’m a soldier, these shoulders hold up so much
They won’t budge, I’ll never fall or fold up
I’m a soldier, even if my collar bone’s crush or crumble
I will never slip or stumble
I’m a soldier, these shoulders hold up so much
They won’t budge, I’ll never fall or fold up
I’m a soldier, even if my collar bone’s crush or crumble
I will never stumble.”

A rap song never made me cry before. I honestly didn’t think it was possible. But it just happened. He said EXACTLY what I knew I needed to be feeling. I’m sure poems I wrote years later, “Failure’s Not An Option” and “I Will Not Quit” were almost jacked from this song.

Now, this may cause some sort of alarm to those who know I’m a minister and would expect my answer to be a gospel artist and I agree. I’d expect the same. But for this time, it wasn’t Commissioned (my all time favorite), it wasn’t John P Kee…it was the controversial Slim Shady.

There were other songs but for the sake of time, I’ll just drop these other life saving gems from the album:

“Or for anyone who’s ever been through sh*t in they lives
‘Til they sit and they cry at night, wishing they die
‘Til they throw on a rap record, and they sit and they vibe
We’re nothing to you, but we’re the f###in’ sh*t in their eyes”

” More pain inside of my brain than the eyes of a little girl
Inside of a plane aimed at the World Trade, standin’ on Ronnie’s grave,
Screamin’ at the sky, ’til clouds gather, it’s Clyde Mathers and Bonnie Jade”

” ‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired,
Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.”

And I would. I’d just sit and vibe, certain songs programmed on repeat and I’d pray. I’d ask God for this strength I needed, the mental peace essential to sanity and I’d just closed my eyes and listen to the answers.

The floor is now open for you to answer the question in the comments below!


Love Alise Naturally AliseLove, Alise signature Alise Leslie mental health illness

Entire series: Wellness Wednesdays

Also check out:

  • Toni

    Nina Simone’s renditions of “I shall be released” and “take me to the water”. Also, by Nina Simone “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free,” among many others.

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