My favorite Disney movie as a kid was easily The Lion King. My friends were all partial to more “girly” stories like Cinderella or The Little Mermaid, but those didn’t appeal to me so much. First of all, they were incredibly frustrating. I mean, Ariel loses her voice so she can’t tell the handsome prince what’s going on, right? Except she lost her voice by signing it away, meaning she can write, and could have easily explained her entire situation in 2 minutes with a pencil and a napkin.
But I digress.
I can’t pinpoint for you what exactly it was about The Lion King that sucked me in so deeply to make me drag my mom to the theatre at least 7 times. I’ve likely seen the VHS over 30 times, too, and have memorized most of the dialogue and all of the lyrics (yes, even the Shwahili. Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala). I plan on getting a tattoo of an elephant in the style of the drawing Rafiki drew of Simba on the tree with that weird red coconut sap stuff. I would have named my dog Simba if he wasn’t so obviously not a Simba that it would have been an insult to Simba’s name to do so.
Like, I really like this freaking movie.
Then the Broadway musical premiered. I was super excited to see it. People warned me that it’s “not exactly like the movie.” I asked if the dialogue was the same, and they said they had no idea (and they call themselves fans. Psh). They said it was more like an African performance than a Disney movie. I said that’s fucking amazing. And I’ll tell you what, that musical was one of the greatest Broadway experiences I’ve ever had. I laughed. I cried. I was in awe of the actors’ dancing, the racially-appropriate casting, and the elaborate animal costumes.
But my favorite parts, unexpectedly, were the new songs. The melodies of the new pieces were taken in part from the background music of the movie. The lyricist and actors took the music that had been embedded into my memories of laying on my Grammie’s living room floor and used magic to shape it into living, breathing personifications of my deepest emotions that are otherwise unreachable, unknowable.
That’s what music can do.
It sneaks into your heart, undetected, undercover, and swirls around your chest, loosening any feelings or thoughts that had been stuck. Stuck in scars from past heartbreaks. Stuck because you spent an entire lifetime pushing them down. Stuck, or ignored. Music will bring them to the surface and cause you to face them head on, good or bad. Because these memories, these thoughts, live in you. They live there and become a part of your being even as your conscious mind has forgotten them. And to be in true control of your life, you have to make friends with the things that bring you to tears.
A man I was once in love with told me an Albert Camus quote that has stuck with me for more than ten years now. “Live to the point of tears.” You must feel things in order to live. Otherwise, you are wasting the stardust that created you.
The music from The Lion King, the Broadway musical, is just one of the many things that bring me to tears, but it is certainly the most powerful. Whether they’re tears of joy or loss, I don’t know. But the feeling I get when I feel those tears fall freely is that of authenticity. You can’t fake that. In that moment, I am truly myself, whether I like it or not. I am experiencing life, not just watching it go by. Are you?