Can you see the real me, doctor? Doctor?

Come on, people:  Enough punishing of the body with fattening foods and late nights of drinking!  Time to take care of ourselves a little better.  Time to see a damn doctor!

You know what he’ll tell you:  Drink more water.  Drink less booze.  Eat more veggies.  Eat less sugar.  Get more exercise.  Get more sleep.

And don’t forget about your mental health.  Be kind to yourself.  Do some meditating, or turn off the news.  Breathe fully.  Listen more and talk less.

And oh yes — listen to more music!  Music is the Queen of Your Soul, as Average White doctor-rockBand once sang.  Music will get you up and dancing.  Music will soothe your weary mind.

But it stands to reason that rock songs about doctors would be just the elixir you need.  Here are 15 examples for your listening pleasure, with a Spotify list below.


4965bffa0fb5cf8ee083136d314d69b5“Rock and Roll Doctor,” Little Feat, 1974

Lowell George came up with this great tune for his band’s “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” album.  It uses the “rock music as medicine” metaphor in a nice twist of boogie and shuffle:  “There was a woman in Georgia, didn’t feel just right, she had the fever all day and chills at night, now things got worse, yes, a serious bind, at times like this, it takes a man with a style I cannot often find, a doctor of the heart and a doctor of mind, if you like country with a boogie beat, he’s the man to meet, if you like the sound of shufflin’ feet, he can’t be beat, if you wanna feel real nice, just ask the rock and roll doctor’s advice…”

vh2“Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” Van Halen, 1979

This hard rocker from Van Halen’s second album features lyrics that sound like it could be serious, but it’s actually played for grins.  The narrator has had too much and he’s thinking maybe he needs help getting home, or just getting up, so he can continue his misadventures a while longer:  “You better call up the ambulance, I’m deep in shock, overloaded, baby, I can hardly walk, somebody get me a doctor, somebody get me a doctor…”

220px-jacksonbrownedebut“Doctor My Eyes,” Jackson Browne, 1972

Browne, a wonderfully perceptive lyricist, wrote this somewhat depressing piece when he was still an unsigned artist searching for not only success but some sort of meaning in his life.  The narrator asks his doctor (probably a therapist) if perhaps it would’ve been a good idea for him to have kept his eyes closed to the woes of society:  “I have done all that I could to see the evil and the good without hiding, you must help me if you can, doctor, my eyes, tell me what is wrong, was I unwise to leave them open for so long?…”

220px-jethro_tull_catfish_rising“Doctor to My Disease,” Jethro Tull, 1991

In this rocker from Tull’s “Catfish Rising” LP, Ian Anderson is heartbroken, and doesn’t expect the woman responsible to be able to fix the problem, because she is no physician:  “I got no cure for this condition that you’ve been causing me tonight, well, you put my heart in overdrive, hand me the bullet I must bite, you can stir me up and you can cut me down, you can probe a little, push that knife around, but there’s one thing I should tell you to which you must agree, it’s no use you playing doctor to my disease…”

220px-harry_nilsson_-_nilsson_schmilsson“Coconut,” Nilsson, 1972

This whimsical novelty song by the late great Harry Nilsson has the narrator nursing a hangover and asking a doctor for some pain relief.   It basically concludes that the cure for a hangover is the “hair of the dog” remedy:   “She put the lime in the coconut, she drank ’em both up, called the doctor, woke him up and said, ‘Doctor, ain’t there nothin’ I can take?’  I said, ‘Doctor, to relieve this bellyache?’, ‘Put a lime in the coconut and drink ’em both together, put the lime in the coconut, then you’ll feel better, put the lime in the coconut, drink ’em both down, put the lime in the coconut, and call me in the morning…'”

revolver-1“Doctor Robert,” The Beatles, 1966

John Lennon heard about a doctor in Los Angeles who was willing to write prescriptions for celebrities who wanted recreational drugs, and he thought the fellow would be a great subject for a song he was writing for The Beatles’ “Revolver” album:  “If you’re down, he’ll pick you up, Doctor Robert, take a drink from his special cup, Doctor Robert, he’s a man you must believe, helping anyone in need, no one can succeed like Doctor Robert…”

r-1014182-1187988620.jpeg“Love in the Ruins (Doctor Dear Doctor),” Animal Logic, 1991

Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police, teamed up with jazz bass great Stanley Clarke and singer/songwriter Deborah Holland to produce two LPs as the group Animal Logic in the late 1980s.  This track includes lyrics by Holland that, while they could be about treating injuries and diseases, is really about healing wounds left by broken relationships:  “Doctor, dear doctor, I know how you feel, there’s so many people you’re dying to heal, and all you can do is the best you can do, doctor, dear doctor, it’s all up to you…

aretha-franklin_i-never-loved-a-man_vf“Dr. Feelgood,” Aretha Franklin, 1968

The Queen of Soul’s first Atlantic LP, “I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You,” was chock full of superb R&B classics like “Respect” and the title track, and one of the hidden gems was this tune about a sensuous lover whom she regards as her doctor of love:  “Don’t send me no doctor, filling me up with all of those pills, I got me a man named Dr. Feelgood, oh yeah, that man takes care of all of my pains and my ills, his name is Dr. Feelgood-in-the-morning, and taking care of business is really this man’s game, and after one visit to Dr. Feelgood, you’d understand why Feelgood is his name…”

palmer_robe_secrets~~_101b“Bad Case of Lovin’ You (Doctor, Doctor),” Robert Palmer, 1979

British singer Palmer deftly mixed soul, blues, rock reggae and blues during his fine career, and one of his best tracks was this pop smash from 1979, where he bemoans his addiction to a female physician:  “I need you to soothe my head and turn my blue heart to red, Doctor, Doctor, give me the news, I got a bad case of lovin’ you, no pill’s gonna cure my ill, I got a bad case of lovin’ you…”  He followed up that idea years later in his #1 hit “Addicted to Love.”

220px-the_young_rascals_album“Good Lovin’,” The Rascals, 1966

The unknown songwriting team of Rudy Clark and Arthur Resnick made a few million bucks writing one of the earliest examples of a pop song that looks for a medical solution to the emotional angst of love and romance, which became a monster #2 hit by the Rascals:  “I was feelin’ so bad, I asked my family doctor just what I had, I said, ‘Doctor, Mister M.D., now can you tell me what’s ailin’ me?’, he said, ‘Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah, yes indeed, all you really need is good lovin’…”

whitesnake-lovehunter-promo-cover-pic-77077“Medicine Man,” Whitesnake, 1979

England’s Whitesnake built a reputation as a hard rock band specializing in rather blatant sexual imagery (“Ready ‘n Willing,” “Slide It In”), which was evident even early on with deep album tracks like “Medicine Man,” where the lover/doctor metaphor is taken to extremes:  “There ain’t no use denying when you need it deep inside, you’ve got your witch doctor to keep you satisfied, I’m the medicine man, your doctor of love…”

humble-pie-performance-rockin-the-fillmore“I Don’t Need No Doctor,” Humble Pie, 1971

Soul/blues legend Ray Charles was the first to record this Nicholas Ashford-Valerie Simpson song in 1966.  Steve Marriott, the guitarist and lead vocalist of this quintessential ’60s-’70s British hard rock band, spearheaded a revised version on its “Rockin’ the Fillmore” live LP, but the idea remains the same.  The narrator needs no doctor because he knows he merely needs to be reunited with his woman to be cured of what ails him:  “The doctor said I need rest, he put me on the critical list, keeping me safe from harm, all I need is her sweet charm, he gave me a medicated lotion, that wouldn’t do my emotion, I don’t need no doctor, all I need is my baby…”

steelydan~~_katyliedj_101b-1“Doctor Wu,” Steely Dan, 1975

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen wrote cryptic lyrics about edgy people and places, and this one, from their “Katy Lied” LP, is about a woman’s unhealthy relationship with drugs, personified in the character of Doctor Wu, the fictional man who procures them for her:  “Are you with me, Doctor Wu, are you really just a shadow of the man that I once knew, are you crazy, are you high, or just an ordinary guy, have you done all you can do, are you with me, Doctor?…”

157812“Dear Doctor,” The Rolling Stones, 1968

In this acoustic track from The Stones’ classic “Beggar’s Banquet” album, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards join the party of songwriters who write about love’s heartbreak and the need for a doctor to heal the pain it causes:  “Oh help me please, doctor, I’m damaged, there’s a pain where there once was a heart, it’s sleepin’, it’s a-beatin’, can’t you please tear it out, and preserve it right there in that jar?’…”

the_doobie_brothers_-_cycles“The Doctor,” The Doobie Brothers, 1989

Doobies founder/singer/guitarist/songwriter Tom Johnston came up with this excellent rocker for the band’s all-important 1989 LP that revived the group for the ’90s and beyond.  The lyrics advance the premise that music has healing powers and can cure almost any ailment you have:  “If you ever wonder how to shake your blues, just follow this prescription and get the cure for what’s ailin’ you, music is the doctor, makes you feel like you want to, listen to the doctor just like you ought to, music is the doctor of my soul…”


Amusing aside:  I have a friend who’s a surgeon and also an accomplished drummer.  He found some other physician-musicians and formed a band called The Retractors and had a blast playing gigs, but their busy schedules allowed for only sporadic performances and almost no rehearsal time.  I sometimes muse about the kinds of songs you might have found on a Retractors album…

stethoscopeguitarHonorable mention:

Doctor Love,” First Choice, 1977;  “Dr. Feelgood,” Motley Crüe, 1989;  “Witch Doctor,” David Seville, 1958;  “Calling Dr. Love,” KISS, 1977;  “Medicine Man,” Michael Murphy, 1975;  “Doctor! Doctor!,” Thompson Twins.




All things must pass away

“Hallelujah, you were an angel in the shape of my mum, you got to see the person I have become, spread your wings, and I know that when God took you back, He said, ‘Hallelujah, you’re home’…”  Ed Sheeran

Music can be such a powerful force.

It can make us joyous and get us up off our feet, it can soothe our aching wounds, it can take us back in time, it can bring us to our knees.  In celebration or in desolation, it’s always there to help us crystallize our thoughts and emotions about the joyous and tragic events of our lives.

Through the years, popular music has tended to be mostly sunny and optimistic, but there have been hundreds of examples of songs that deal with loss and grief.  For example, we can reach back to George and Ira Gershwin’s groundbreaking 1935 opera “Porgy and Bess,” which includes a heart-wrenching song of longing called “My Man’s Gone Now”:   “My man’s gone now, ain’t no use listening for his tired footsteps climbing up the stairs, old man sorrow’s come to keep me company, whispering beside me when I say my prayers…”


Five years ago, on her 90th birthday

Earlier this month, I lost my mother, who passed away at age 95.  It was quite a long and wonderful life she had, but it still hurts mightily — for me, for my sister, for the grandchildren and other relatives, and for the many who called her their friend — to lose her.

“Sometimes I feel my heart is breaking, but I stay strong and I hold on, ’cause I know I will see you again, this is not where it ends, I will carry you with me…”  David Hodges/Hillary Lindsey/Carrie Underwood

These kinds of events take your breath away in their suddenness and their finality, and no one knows exactly what to do, or feel.  It just doesn’t seem real, like a nightmarish scene from a bad movie.  And those left behind to mourn are searching for ways to cope, to heal, to put it all in perspective and somehow make sense of it.

“Like a comet blasting ‘cross the evening sky, gone too soon, like a rainbow fading in the twinkling of an eye, gone too soon…”  Michael Jackson

The Internet is full of documented scientific studies that show conclusively that music can reduce the intensity of pain, improve sleep, reduce stress, enhance blood vessel function, raise spirits and enhance mood, induce meditative states.  I’m pretty certain, though, that mankind has known this for many centuries before science proved it.  As they say, music has charms to soothe the savage breast:  “Music, sweet music, you’re the queen of my soul…”. Hamish Stuart

Musical eulogies come in a variety of forms, and they can provide just the right words and musical passages to help with what you’re going through.  Hymnals are full of songs to help deal with loss.  Gospel music reaches to the heavens to search for answers in life and death.

Country music is famous for its down-home laments about heartbreak and suffering: “The roses aren’t as pretty, the sun isn’t quite as high, the birds don’t swing as sweet of a lullaby, the stars are a little bit faded, the clouds are just a little more gray, and it feels like things won’t ever be the same…”  Gordon Garner


With granddaughter Emily, 1994

If it makes you feel better to get right down into the depths of grief and have a really good cry, there are so many songs that can accompany you on that journey.  Some are merely about relationships that ended, but once you’ve lost someone, the same song takes on a more profound meaning: “She’s gone, she’s gone, oh why, oh why, I better learn how to face it, she’s gone, I can’t believe it, she’s gone, I’ll pay the devil to replace her…” Daryl Hall and John Oates

If, instead, you feel the need to snap out of it and celebrate the wonderful memories you have of the person you’ve lost, there are plenty of tunes for that too (“Celebrate good times, come on…”)  When I lost my dear friend Chris nine years ago, we didn’t have a funeral, we had a “celebration of life,” and it was wonderfully cathartic.  We listened to “Reelin’ in the Years,” among many others, and cherished him for the way we know he would have insisted that we focus on the positive and not dwell on the loss.  My mother felt much the same way.

Pop music can be so fleeting, but it can still tug at the heartstrings when it addresses serious topics, and very effectively:

“And I know that you’ve reached a better place, still, I’d give the world to see your face, it feels like you’ve gone too soon, the hardest thing is to say bye bye…”  Mariah Carey

“I’m so tired but I can’t sleep, standing on the edge of something much too deep, it’s funny how we feel so much, but we cannot say a word, we are screaming inside, but we can’t be heard…”  Sarah McLachlan

“Now you’re gone, now you’re gone, there you go, there you go, somewhere I can’t bring you back…”  Avril Lavigne


With granddaughter Rachel, 1997

Even hip-hop, infamous for its rage and bombast, can offer solace. In 1997, rapper Puff Daddy and Faith Evans collaborated on “I’ll Be Missing You,” which used The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” to create a eulogy to The Notorious B.I.G., who died that year.  “Every step I take, every move I make, every single day, every day I pray, I’ll be missing you…”

Perhaps words of any kind are distracting, and you need instruments without voices.  Classical music is often ideal in that situation.  Or perhaps jazz, or “easy listening” music like Sinatra or Nat King Cole.  Anything that lets you float in your thoughts.

Sometimes the lyrics aren’t quite right for what you’re feeling, but the music… the music is exactly what you need to hear.  For instance, check out the majestic chorus of the amazing Leonard Cohen piece, “Hallelujah,” a waltz/gospel piece written in 1984 and interpreted by dozens of artists in arrangements that are alternately melancholy, fragile, uplifting or joyous.

Of course, there will always be specific songs that acutely remind us of the departed — songs you danced to together, songs you laughed to together, songs you sang with them at the top of your lungs.  And songs that you know they loved deeply, songs that will now always, always remind you of them.  If they liked Johnny Mathis or Frank Sinatra or even The Beatles, like my mother did, well then, perhaps that’s what you need to crank up.  Whatever works.  I feel pretty confident in saying that, somewhere, there is music that will help.

If I may be so bold, let me strongly suggest:  Immerse yourself in music.  It can be profoundly beneficial.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Just hearing something as iconic as James Taylor’s line “Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone…” will take on a whole new meaning for you now.  It may make you cry initially, but eventually it will help you heal.


The Hacketts in 1990

Losing a loved one is so profoundly painful.  But it’s a certainty.  We will ALL lose people we love.  Grandparents, parents, friends, brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren.  It never seems fair, or right, or in any way good, but we all must eventually find a way to cope with the loss, to fill the void, to find the answer.

One of the time-honored ways for easing the pain is to surround yourself with friends and family who share your loss.  They get it.  They know exactly what you’re going through, and can call up a fun memory, an old story, a time from the past when it was all good and fun and right. “With a friend at hand, you will see the light, if your friends are there, then everything’s all right…”  Bernie Taupin  


With the family in 2013

You can also look through old photos, which can be wonderfully comforting.  They transport you to an earlier time.  They can remind you, emphatically, why you miss this person so much. “Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer, I was taken by a photograph of you, there were one or two I know that you would’ve liked a little more, but they didn’t show your spirit quite as true…”  Jackson Browne

But music…well, if you’re like me, and you’re motivated to compile a mix of songs that focus on what you’re going through, you might look at these selections:

“Tears in Heaven,” Eric Clapton

“See You Again,” Carrie Underwood

“She’s Gone,” Hall and Oates

“All Things Must Pass,” George Harrison

“Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel),” Billy Joel

“Supermarket Flowers,” Ed Sheeran

“Gone Too Soon,” Michael Jackson

“Hallelujah,” Leonard Cohen

“Here Today,” Paul McCartney

“Candle in the Wind,” Elton John

“Dreaming With a Broken Heart,” John Mayer

“I Grieve,” Peter Gabriel

“Everybody Hurts,” R.E.M.

“Let It Be,” The Beatles

“Heaven Got Another Angel,” Gordon Garner

Music is a remarkable medicine.  Let it help you cope with loss.

“The darkness only stays at nighttime, in the morning it will fade away, daylight is good at arriving at the right time, it’s not always gonna be this grey, all things must pass, all things must pass away…”  George Harrison