Some songs just don’t work when they are arranged for marching band. There is a tradition in marching bands to play arrangements of pop songs in the stands and sometimes during halftime shows. Some songs like “Gimmie Some Lovin’” and “Hey Baby” are fantastic and some like “Who Let the Dogs Out" are simply painful.
One year when I was in the Northwestern Marching band, our director handed this arrangement of “Soak Up The Sun.” My instrument section really enjoyed playing the song because we had the melody the entire time but musically that was a horrible thing as my section was the alto saxophones. The purpose of alto saxophones in a marching band is to fill in harmony under the melody and provide counter-melodies, not the melody.
Now the alto section wasn’t exactly the most “mature” group so when we realized we had the melody we played it as loud as possible. So as we played the song, our director gave my section “the hand” (a gesture meant to tell us to play softer) throughout the entire song. After the song was done our director gave us a stern look and verbally reprimanded us for our unmusical playing and all I could think was “lighten up.”
After playing the song once we never played it ever again. Maybe it was because of the mediocrity of the arrangement or maybe it was because our director realized what a bad idea it was to give the alto saxophones the melody.
Sheryl Crow's sings with a sense of ease and relaxation. She glides through the lyrics so smoothly that some of the stranger lyrics like "my friend the communist holds meetings in his RV" come off as matter of the fact observations. The attitude in her voice matches the lyrics of the song which are basically telling us to chill out.
As a lyricist Crow plays with figurative language while making interesting observations. In the first verse she talks about not having enough gas to go to a communist party. She doesn't have a television but she is ok with this as she concludes "it's not having what you want, it's having wanting what you got."
In the second verse, Crow reveals that she doesn't get paid enough to "win me some of your love." She describes that she it at odds with her love as she is looking up and he is looking down but she is not mad. When she wonders if something is wrong with him, she concludes that maybe she is crazy too.
The chorus is a declaration of optimism, a statement that she is going to enjoy life. She is going to relax and soak up the sun and tell everyone else to lighten up. The verse describes a life that isn't perfect and a relationship that is flawed but she is resolved to enjoy life and relax.
What Crow is telling us is that enjoying life really is more about attitude than the actual situation. There are points in life when even a positive attitude can’t make a difference but more often than not it can.
When we played “Soak Up The Sun,” my section and I could have decided to just be annoyed that we were playing a mediocre arrangement of a song that has no business being arranged for marching band. Instead, we decided to have a little fun with it. Was it helpful to the rest of the band? No, was it a little annoying to our director and everyone else in the band? Oh yeah, but did we have a fantastic time doing it. Yes.
After giving us “the hand,” and giving us “the look,” our director did chuckle to himself a little. I think he understood that sometimes it’s just not worth getting that mad. I got to admit that over the four years I had him as a director he did in fact “lighten up.” Kind of . . .