I remember, sometime in elementary school when we still lived in Baltimore, listening to the song I’m Sensitive with my dad, on Jewel’s very first CD. I thought the lyrics said “if we robbed the senate and took all their food” – it was literally not until I heard her sing it live this past week that I realized she says “if we robbed the cynics and took all their food” – I chuckle to myself in the irony of a child’s mishearing.
When I was in 6th grade, I can clearly remember standing on a stool in the middle of the room I shared with my brother when we were living at the Boatyard, belting out Jewel’s song Little Sister. Headphones on, disc-man in hand, singing along with Jewel at the top of my lungs. I think some part of little me really did understand what she was singing about…
“my little sister is a zombie in a body/ with no soul or role she has learned to play/ in a world today where nothing else matters/ but it matters/ we gotta start feeding our souls…”
I remember finding refuge in her song Hands, listening to it on repeat when I was at youth group at church sitting in the corner by myself, having been excluded from the group.
“I am never broken/In the end only kindness matters”
In high school, I remember making a documentary about the UN Declaration of Human Rights and this song was the sound track.
“On TV, D.C. is selling lies/While on the corner, King’s dream dies”
Next to my senior picture in the high school year book, I quoted this song:
“come on baby let’s just have fun/ let’s breathe stardust into our lungs/ let’s drive too fast, let’s go too far/ when our hearts bleed it let’s us know we/ are alive”
I remember in college having an epiphany realizing that this song isn’t about a lover – it’s about god. (I could write a whole book about this epiphany and the transformation in myself.)
“Inside my skin there is this space/ It twists and turns/ It bleeds and aches/ Inside my heart there’s an empty room/ It’s waiting for lightning/ It’s waiting for you”
Just a month or so ago, I picked up her book of poetry I’ve had sitting on my shelf for years, and was again reminded of her lyrical talent and ability to describe the human condition with such deep resonance.
This past Tuesday, I saw her perform in Washington, DC. It was a revitalizing and fulfilling experience. Talk about EmaBee’s Inspiration!
Get this little tidbit of trivia I learned from her telling stories about songs: her first single Who Will Save Your Soul was the first song she ever wrote, at the age of 16 when she was hitchhiking across the country and Mexico. When she signed with the record company for this single, she was 18 years old and homeless. At the time, she had recently almost died of kidney failure in the parking lot of a hospital because they wouldn’t see her because she didn’t have health insurance.
I’ve never been good with being able to follow the lyrics of songs. I have to listen really hard and concentrate- but with Jewel, the lyrics have always spoken to me. I have heard other people make similar comments. She is such a humble and talented woman. She has an amazing story. Needless to say, it was extraordinary to see her live this past Tuesday. Her performance and her stories woke up something in me that had been sleeping – reminded me of parts of myself I had almost forgotten.