Memories and Hopes Meet in New Year's Music

    31 December, 2016

    Welcome to This Is America with VOA Learning English. Steve Ember brings you music for the New Year.

    In the United States and other countries, this old Scottish song, "Auld Lang Syne" is played when a new year begins. The song is about remembering old friends.

    New Year's is a holiday for memories and for hopes. The past and the future come together at midnight. Not surprisingly, emotions are as much a part of New Year's Eve as noisemakers and fireworks. After all, a traditional way to welcome the New Year is to kiss the person you love.

    "Old Lang Syne" lends its name to a modern song about a man and a woman who once were lovers. One day, a week before New Year's, they meet again by chance.

    Met my old lover in the grocery store
    The snow was falling Christmas Eve
    I stole behind her in the frozen foods
    And I touched her on the sleeve
    She didn't recognize the face at first
    But then her eyes flew open wide
    She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
    And we laughed until we cried

    The singer is Dan Fogelberg and the song is called "Same Old Lang Syne."

    We took her groceries to the checkout stand
    The food was totalled up and bagged
    We stood there lost in our embarrassment
    As the conversation dragged
    We went to have ourselves a drink or two
    But couldn't find an open bar
    We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
    And we drank it in her car
    We drank a toast to innocence
    We drank a toast to now
    And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
    But neither one knew how
    She said she'd married her an architect
    Who kept her warm and safe and dry
    She would have liked to say she loved the man
    But she didn't like to lie
    I said the years had been a friend to her
    And that her eyes were still as blue
    But in those eyes I wasn't sure if I saw
    Doubt or gratitude
    She said she saw me in the record stores
    And that I must be doing well
    I said the audience was heavenly
    But the traveling was hell

    On December 16, 2007, fans of Dan Fogelberg lost an old friend. The American singer and songwriter died of prostate cancer at the age of 56. He was known for the kind of soft rock popular in the 1970s and 80s. "Same Old Lang Syne" was one of the hits from his 1981 album "The Innocent Age."

    The idea of meeting an old lover by chance is also at the heart of a Paul Simon song. Here is the title song from Paul Simon's 1975 album "Still Crazy After All These Years."

    I met my old lover
    On the street last night
    She seemed so glad to see me
    I just smiled
    And we talked about some old times
    And we drank ourselves some beers
    Still crazy after all these years
    Oh, still crazy after all these years
    I'm not the kind of man
    Who tends to socialize
    I seem to lean on old familiar ways
    And I ain't no fool for love songs
    That whisper in my ears
    Still crazy after all these years
    Oh, still crazy after all these years
    Four in the morning
    Crapped out
    Longing my life away
    I'll never worry
    Why should I?
    It's all gonna fade

    Chance meetings are one of life's little surprises. They can happen anywhere -- in a market, on the street, even in a taxicab. This song by Harry Chapin is called "Taxi."

    It was raining hard in 'Frisco,
    I needed one more fare to make my night.
    A lady up ahead waved to flag me down,
    She got in at the light.
    Oh, where you going to, my lady blue,
    It's a shame you ruined your gown in the rain.
    She just looked out the window,
    She said "Sixteen Parkside Lane".
    Something about her was familiar
    I could swear I'd seen her face before,
    But she said, "I'm sure you're mistaken"
    And she didn't say anything more.
    It took a while, but she looked in the mirror,
    And she glanced at the license for my name.
    A smile seemed to come to her slowly,
    It was a sad smile, just the same.
    And she said, "How are you Harry?"
    I said, "How are you Sue?
    Through the too many miles
    and the too little smiles
    I still remember you.

    Harry Chapin was a popular folk singer and songwriter. In 1981, at the age of 38, he died in a car crash on his way to a performance.

    Music and emotions go hand in hand. Songs can make us feel the heartbreak of a lost love, or the excitement of finding a new love. Songs can also capture the pain of a wish that a person knows will never come true. Here is James Blunt with "You're Beautiful."

    My life is brilliant
    My love is pure
    I saw an angel
    Of that I'm sure
    She smiled at me on the subway
    She was with another man
    But I won't lose no sleep on that
    Cause I've got a plan
    You're beautiful You're beautiful
    You're beautiful it's true
    I saw your face in a crowded place
    And I don't know what to do
    Cause I'll never be with you

    The 1989 movie "When Harry Met Sally" was about a relationship. Billy Crystal plays Harry and Meg Ryan is Sally. They meet and become friends, though not at first. Later, they fall in love, though not for very long. Then, on New Year's Eve, Harry comes to his senses and finds Sally at a party.

    HARRY: "I've been doing a lot of thinking, and the thing is, I love you."

    SALLY: "What?"

    HARRY: "I love you."

    SALLY: "How do you expect me to respond to this?"

    HARRY: "How about you love me, too?"

    SALLY: "How about I'm leaving?"

    HARRY: "Doesn't what I said mean anything to you?"

    SALLY: "I'm sorry, Harry. I know it's New Year's Eve, I know you're feeling lonely, but you just can't show up here, tell me you love me, and expect that to make everything all right. It doesn't work this way."

    HARRY: "Well, how does it work?"

    SALLY: "I don't know, but not this way."

    HARRY: "How about this way? I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend a day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night.

    "And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

    SALLY: "You see? That is just like you, Harry! You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you. And I hate you, Harry. I really hate you."

    What are they doing now? Well, you can probably guess.

    From New Year's Day, we turn to "A New Day." That was the name of Celine Dion's music and dance show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. It closed on December 15, 2007, after almost five years. It sold a reported 400 million dollars in tickets.

    The show's run ended two months before the start of a worldwide tour for a new album by the Canadian singer. But some fans came to the show again and again, so closing night was like an emotional goodbye to an old friend.

    We leave you with Celine Dion and a song that some of you will probably sing along with. From the 1997 movie "Titanic," here is "My Heart Will Go On."

    Near far
    Wherever you are
    I believe
    That the heart does go on
    Once more you open the door
    And you're here in my heart
    And my heart will go on and on

    Avi Arditti wrote today's program, and Steve Ember was your reader. We hope you will join us again next week for This Is America, on the radio or online at

    Wishing you a happy New Year from all of us at VOA Learning English.

    Love was when I loved you
    One true time I hold to
    In my life well always go on
    Near far
    Wherever you are
    I believe
    That the heart does go on
    Once more you open the door
    And you're here in my heart
    And my heart will go on and on you're here
    You're here
    There's nothing I fear
    And I know
    That my heart will go on
    Well stay forever this way
    You are safe in my heart
    And my heart will go on and on