On December 6, 2011, Dobie Gray died. Dobie was a musician, a singer. I only know one of his songs. That song, Drift Away, was written by Mentor Williams and recorded by Dobie Gray in 1973. For the last 38 years, Drift Away has been one of the few songs to consistently touch me. Many songs have had special moments in my life, some have gotten me through the really rough times, but few still touch me the same way now as they did then. Drift Away is my song. It perfectly describes the impact music has on my life and my soul.
There are songs that should never be allowed to die. They need to be renewed, so that subsequent generations can benefit from them. There are songs that are so iconic, it seems sacrilegious to remake them. Drift away is both, it needed to be remade to bring it back into the light, but what an undertaking! Uncle Kracker teamed up with Dobie Gray to do a beautiful remake. Either version moves me to tears every single time I hear them. Every time. Not because the song is sad or associated with sad memories, but because this song so perfectly says what I want to say. This song uplifts me, even when I am already up. When I am down, Drift Away reaches down into the depths of my misery, wraps its music around the ache in my soul, and sets me free.
This is a crank-it-up-and-sing-your-heart-out song. Hit repeat and play it again. I’m thankful Mentor Williams put a piece of his soul into the song, and I’m thankful Dobie Gray found it, wrapped it in a piece of his own soul, and poured it out for the world to hear.
Besides rescuing me from random funks, Drift Away takes me back. When I hear it, I feel the sun on my arms and legs. I feel the soft, cool grass between my toes. I hear the mingled voices of dozens of young people loving life on a warm summer day. I smell summer, that summer. This song plants me firmly in the middle of Fort Washington Park, on the huge green in the center, with Frisbees flying, touch football games, the mingled music of cruising cars, boom-boxes, and guitar toting hippies. I don’t mean I remember the scene; I actually experience it. I don’t get that from the Uncle Kracker version of the song, just from Dobie’s rendition. Most songs that do this sort of thing for me only give me little flashes, like seeing snapshots. Dobie gives me the whole movie, in Technicolor, with Dolby quad sound.
Since we spent the entire summer in that park, with hundreds of other kids, I have a lot of good memories of Fort Washington. A lot of songs, sounds, and aromas elicit mental snapshots of that time. The snapshots have entire stories behind them, but with Drift Away, there is no single story; just that immersive experience I described above. Drift Away is my trigger for an instant connection with the universe, a three minute meditation that truly does ‘sooth my soul’.