What is the Fourth of July? Gracious warmth, fruits and berries ripening under the sun’s hot rays, crowded beaches, children enjoying the freedom of vacation, in short, the height of summer. For residents of the United States, it is also one of the most important national holidays – Independence Day, when the inhabitants of the British colony rebelled against the tyranny of a powerful empire and gained their freedom. For the victors, who remembered their friends who died in battle, it was a real “tearful” holiday. Tears come to the eyes of those who listen to the song “Fourth of July” by the American composer and singer Sufjan Stevens. After all, Sufjan dedicated this song to his personal tragedy – to the memory of his mother who died on that day. Not only friends of Stevens, who are closely familiar with his family history, but also music lovers “with a long history” unanimously say that this is one of the saddest songs written in the 21st century.
The story behind the song “Fourth of july”.
So, this song is dedicated to the memory of a woman with a difficult fate, who suffered from mental illness, difficult relationships with men and with her own parents, and was out of touch with alcohol. Although she was constantly on medication, she was now and again close to the brink of insanity. Maybe it was because of her constant physical and mental malaise that Carrie Stevens didn’t immediately recognize the signs of another deadly disease that plagued her body. And when a tired oncologist made the fatal diagnosis, it was too late to hope for a cure or at least a successful remission. The only thing Carrie’s relatives hoped for was that thanks to the doctor’s skill she would spend her last days without suffering and sleep peacefully when her last hour came. Alas, this did not happen, and Sufjan Stevens says that his mother’s suffering was the most agonizing experience he had in his life.
He endeavored to be with Carrie constantly, forgetting rest and sleep. During rare moments of relief, the pain-torn woman would ask why she could see tears in her son’s eyes, and the latter would assure his mother in a squeezed voice that she would surely recover and live many more years to enjoy life. “Most of all, my mother was tormented by the thought that I was left alone, defenseless against the sorrows of life,” he recalls. – For her, until the last hour, I remained a little boy, who should be instructed and protected, consoled and educated”.
After the death of his mother Sufyan Stevens endlessly tormented by thoughts that failed to show Carrie, how much he loves her. He has long forgotten his childhood offenses and wanted only one thing – once again to hear her words: “Honey, why are you crying”? Even the support of old friends and the help of a psychologist could not bring him comfort, until the words and music of a new song began to be born in his imagination. This melody soothed the pain of loss and dried his tears. Sufyan himself admits that his creative gift for grief counseling is the best doctor he has ever met in his life.
The meaning of the song “Fourth of july”
The song “Fourth of july” is imbued with the inexhaustible sorrow of parting with the closest person, reverent tenderness of memories of mother and childhood gone and sincerity that opens the hearts of listeners. Even a person almost unfamiliar with the English language feels tears come to his eyes. If he understands the language of Shakespeare and the Beatles, he realizes that the song is about a grieving son saying goodbye to his dying mother. There is no mention of a meeting in the other world or the other consolations that religion brings to grieving people. Moreover, the last words of the song, reminding of the common lot of people and all living things, are “We will all die.” And yet listening to the song “Fourth of July” offers the comfort of hope. You feel as if you were touched by a friendly hand, and realize that you are not alone in your fears and grief. After all, love for loved ones, the memory of them and the pain of loss is a feeling that unites all people, famous and unknown, and awakens in them sympathy and brotherly tenderness. It is these feelings that make us human beings capable of creating, reviving the past and feeling the magical power of music and words.