There’s a certain type of news story that always catches my eye. Maybe you’ve also encountered this headline:
A person is suffering with a dire medical condition, something so severe that they are in a coma.
Then, through some circumstance, they hear a certain song…
…and they wake up from the coma.
How fantastic is that?!?
These persons were basically beyond the reach of medical science, standing in front of death’s open door – and they were brought back to life by a song!
Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be any occurrences of this prior to 1996, when a 22-year-old, in a coma following a car wreck, was revived after hearing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Following that, there are no reports of the phenomenon until 2005.
But that 9-year-old boy (who had been hit by a car and in a coma for two weeks) and Green Day’s American Idiot album seemed to open a door – over the next decade, there were over a dozen reported cases. And then, for whatever reason, the reports stop. I didn’t see any cases later than 2014.
It brings up a lot of questions. I think the best one to start with is this:
If YOU were in a coma, what music would you want to hear?
In every case that I know of, the song that brought the patient back to life was one that they already knew and loved.
So, the music should be something that you already have an emotional connection with. My guess is that it’s more likely to work if the song is upbeat and energetic, but that’s entirely speculation on my part.
Remember (and this applies to everything I say here), I’m neither doctor nor expert, and I speak with no medical authority.
Now, if I’m ever really in a coma, I don’t want you to play me one song over and over. That may be… detrimental. I would definitely want a playlist – an extensive one. But I’m going to save that for another time.
Just for fun, let’s think in terms of one song, and ask:
Please understand, this is an entirely subjective and personal choice. There’s no wrong answer.
But here’s my advice:
Pick a song that truly moves you.
What do I mean by that?
- If it makes the hair on your arms stand up – the song is moving you.
- If you get tingles up your spine, or if a song simply makes you smile, your body is reacting to the music and you’re being moved, both literally and figuratively.
Our bodies can respond to music in a wide variety of ways, and what’s fascinating is that these are involuntary, physiological reactions. Having your breath taken away by a moment in a song, or having to wipe away a tear, are visceral, lived experiences that we (most of us, anyway… no judgment…) know are fully real.
Because we’ve felt them and experienced them for ourselves.
These types of reactions are mysterious ripples across our inner beings. My hunch is that these involuntary, physiological reactions to music are what can nudge a person’s brain back into waking consciousness.
This is what may bring you out of a coma.
So, what’s a song that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face?
What’s a song that makes you raise your hands to the sky?
Or that prompts you to remark that you’ve “got dust” in your eye?
- Maybe it’s the first record you ever bought with your own money, or maybe it’s the first song you heard after bringing a child into the world.
- Maybe it’s a song that reminds you of a long-departed friend.
- Or maybe it’s the song that your mother sang to you.
Is there a song that just “feels like home” to you, or that makes you feel like you’re being touched by the Holy Spirit?
Is there a song that got you through a rough time in your life?
Possibly you’ll pick a song that makes you want to stomp around and shout…
…or maybe something so gentle and kindhearted that it makes you weep a little bit…
…just because it’s so damn beautiful.
That last one is going to guide my choice:
Paul McCartney has always had the knack for a benevolently friendly, melodic beauty, and something about that really rings my chime.
I’m going to pick “Hey Jude” as my song.
The melody of “Hey Jude” makes me weepy from the outset, and there’s the long crowd sing-along with lots of voices.
Enthusiastic group sing-alongs have a way of lighting up my neurochemistry, even if it’s as simple and meaningless as “…na-na-na-na…”
And I haven’t checked…
… but I think maybe my pupils dilate whenever McCartney pushes his voice into that ragged, edge-of-breaking territory.
In light of all that, let’s be frank enough to admit that there is a chance – however small – that any of us could fall into a coma.
If you decide to share your one tune with us? Perhaps consider also passing it on to your family and loved ones, just in case the situation arises.
It’s a fun bit of conjecture.
But it also has the potential to literally save a life.
Let the author know that you liked their article with a “Green Thumb” Upvote!