The soundtrack to any of life’s events is one born of fortune: songs written and performed in the past relating in some fortuitous way to the events of the present. Moods captured in recordings reflect a reality that exists for the listener but not the artist.
Remembrances of Sept. 11, 2001 inevitably will touch upon the world of pop culture and how that world changed, and music certainly played a part in finding ways to represent feelings that those of us outside the immediately affected struggled to express. Two songs immediately come to mind, and they show how our memories can compress and extend time to fit our needs. The first – Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – became associated with the tragedy for both being played and not being played. The song showed up on an advisory list created by Clear Channel as a song to avoid broadcasting on the radio. The decision made as much sense in the moment as it does now, especially when compared to some of the obvious plane crash and apocalyptic songs also on the list. This became abundantly clear on television Sept. 21, when a fundraising telethon called “America: A Tribute to Heroes” featured Paul Simon performing the 30-year-old song and giving it a new context.