As I mentioned in my last blog, being a dad has been one of the highlights of my life. I’m especially thankful that even when our marriage ended, my wife and I agreed to continue jointly raising our two children, giving us both plenty of time to experience the highs and lows of parenthood. Today’s blog is about one of those joyful times, when Celine Dion helped me see my daughter Carly in a new light.
“To Love You More” was a big hit for Celine in 1993, though you could have fooled me. She was enjoying her most popular years, releasing one chart-topping song after another roof-shattering ballad, but they all sounded the same to me. When a song of hers came on the radio, I might have listened if I was in the mood for her trademark vocals. But I would have never considered any of her songs as memorable until Carly showed me why I should.
At an early age, Carly was passionate about music, particularly vocal music. Like her mom, she has a beautiful singing voice, so I spent lots of schoolyear evenings in an auditorium listening to children’s choruses sing Christmas carols or snappy versions of Broadway classics. Those are cherished memories, watching my daughter raise her voice together with her friends. So I wasn’t particularly surprised when, one evening, Carly, age ten, interrupted my quiet time with the newspaper.
Dad, you need to listen to this song. I just love it! she insisted.
Now you might think I should have dropped what I was doing based on the urgency in Carly’s voice. But there’s one thing you need to know about my daughter: she has never been one to ask if I have time to hear about the new book she’s reading or to take a look at the tenth version of her rearranged bedroom. She assumes I do, and so it’s never really a question; it’s more of an order. Sometimes, as she learned, she had to wait, but on that particular night, I decided to put the newspaper down. I’m glad I did.
Pushing start on her CD player, Carly introduced me to “To Love You More.” If you’re unfamiliar with the song, this is a good place to have a listen. But even if you already know it, you’ll want to revisit it, because it wasn’t Celine’s powerhouse vocals that Carly wanted me to notice. Here’s her passionate suggestion to give you a hint: Listen to the violin, Dad! Listen!
The violin in “To Love You More” was an unusual twist for a pop tune. If you think of a song as a short story, as I often do, it’s the sweet strains of the violin that provides the opening paragraph of “To Love You More.” It sets the stage for this story of a woman trying to stop her man from leaving for another lover. With each chorus the violin pulls at our hearts, reminding us of the uphill climb this woman faces to save her relationship. Then, those pleading strings reappear for a second solo as they crescendo to the story’s conclusion.
If you’ve ever lost a lover to someone else, you might relate to the violin’s tug. It still brings a tear when I listen to “To Love You More” today, but not just because I think of my lost loves. When I hear that violin, I remember watching my daughter’s budding awareness of the instrument’s beauty.
We were side by side on the couch, Carly holding her CD player as if she were cradling the song. I looked at my ten-year-old, about to leave her childhood years behind, heading for that wild ride of her teens. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that she was making angels in the snow and sneaking Oreos from the pantry? Witnessing her embrace of “To Love You More” was my first glimpse of who Carly was becoming, separate from her parents. I was excited to see her follow her heart, but I wanted to hold onto that moment forever.
It turns out that the violin in “To Love You More” was a revealing moment for Carly. Music would become a driving force in where life took her. She remained in chorus through high school, dabbled in musical theatre during college, and when she moved away from home, she joined a church that not only featured music, but relied on it to shape the congregation’s worshipping. When she was 28, her deep commitment to her church’s music convinced Carly to put her career on hold, clean out her savings and head to Australia for a special college that concentrated on music ministry. Today, settled in northern California, Carly’s voice is part of a team that leads her church’s musical offerings and she continues to find new ways to explore how music can enrich her life.
As for me, I’m still in the house where the violin in “To Love You More” filled our living room twenty-five years ago. If you poke around in my CD collection, you’ll find Celine Dion’s Greatest Hits. On the days that my home, now an empty nest, feels a little too empty and I wonder why my daughter doesn’t live closer, I play “To Love You More.” When that violin begins to tell the song’s story, I think back to a time when my daughter’s story was just beginning, and how the power of music launched her on that journey. Like her dad, Carly was wise enough to trust where music would take her.
Was there a singer or song that changed the direction of your life?