"Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."
I've seen this quote atributed to everyone from Confucius to George Carlin, but I guess it doesn't matter who said it first; it only matters if it's true or not. And I believe it is.
Herewith, in no order other than the order they popped into my head, are some things that take my breath away in the world of popular music. I'll get to art and literature and comic books later.
"November Rain" from Guns N' Roses. Even if the Gunners had never done this song, they would still be one of my favorite rock bands of the last 15 or so years -- (not that there's been much competition, the infusion of rap having pretty much ruined rock and roll. But I digress.) -- for songs like "Sweet Child O' Mine" "Patience" "Don't Cry" and some other great stuff they did before Axl took up permanent residence on the nutjob side of that fine line that separates genius and insanity But this song never fails to blow me away every time I hear it for two reasons. And before I tell you those two reasons I need to tell you two things about me.
1.) I am a romantic.
2.) I hate Winter.
The second one is self-explanatory. Don't all right-thinking people loathe that long, dark season of death and glaciation and no baseball? But I might need to clarify that first point. The zeitgeist of our modern era is cynicism, so if you tell people you're romantic they think you live in some fairy-tale world that you discovered when you buried your head in the sand. That is why as much as I love stuff like the new movie "Just Like Heaven" starring the magnificent Reese Witherspoon where love conquers all, I have a more profound appreciation for works of art that acknowldge the the harsh realities of life without giving them more power than they deserve.
That is why I love "November Rain" so much. At first only the music contains any hint of hopefulness, the lyrics are about how nothing good lasts forever and hearts can change so (it is implied) you might as well give up on the hippie nonsense of Max Ehrrman's "Desiderata" and its tenet of "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world" and put whatever faith you have left into nihilism and the "no warmth -- no cheerfulness -- no healthful ease" of Thomas Hood's "November" But then Axl and Slash and the guys dig a little deeper and discover that the truth is it's the bad things like Winter that do not last, but the real things like love do.
Man, I get goosebumps just thinking about it.