Charlie Hebdo and the Power of Hope in Music

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

As our hearts go out to those whose loved ones were lost in the attack on Charlie Hebdo and free speech, we also see an incredible outpouring of solidarity with the French and free speech. Just for full disclosure’s sake, I’ll simply state that there is little common ground between myself (fairly conservative) and the satire of Charlie Hebdo. Part of that common ground, however, is their right to satire what they will, including my beliefs. Despite our differences of opinion, #JeSuisCharlie is more than just a hash tag. It is a deeply held conviction that civil discourse survives when we allow all voices to speak.

This kind of attack on civility and speech has brought out many to support Charlie Hebdo, much of which has been virtual via Twitter, Facebook and many blog posts. One such expression is Tierney Sutton’s (Jazzweek’s Vocalist of the Year, 2005) posting of the classic standard, “You Must Believe in Spring” from her Paris Sessions album (2015 Grammy-nominated Jazz Vocal Album of the Year) in this post: “Recorded in France & rehearsed just blocks from attack- it’s the most peaceful record I’ve made. Love to Paris.”

There are so many reasons this is the perfect pick for this occasion to express solidarity and hope. It reflects the hope we find in spring, such as the Arab Spring. It reflects hope even when one’s desires are not met. This song was originally penned for Jacques Lemay’s Lola (written with film composer and jazz pianist Michel Jean Legrand) in which the protagonist’s love is unrequited and Lola goes off with someone else. Yet we still must believe in the hope of spring and in love. Finally, as noted in the FB post, it was rehearsed near the attack. We are a connected world.

Diving a bit more into the song itself, we see love and hope depicted as relentless: “When angry voices drowns/The music of the spheres/And children face a world/That’s far beyond their years/Above the darkest sky/The full horizons lie/With all the reasons/Why you must believe in spring/You must believe in love.” Note that Lola was made in 1961; we have had angry voices trying to drown “the music of the spheres” for many years. I really love her approach to the song. It is wistful with some undertones of melancholy even whilst singing of hope and love. This reflects the reality that hope and love too often disappoint in this world and yet we should not give up. I also love that while this is typically accompanied on piano, Ms. Tierney is accompanied on guitar by Serge Merlaud and Kevin Axt on bass which provide a mellow sound while bringing out the melancholy tone.

I may find my hope and spring in Christ, you may find yours elsewhere, but our arms are inextricably linked in support of the civil discourse of free-speech. Music, such as this song, allow us to express our deepest hopes and cross all boundaries to link us together.