Sometimes when you are busy living your life a special moment arrives or rather you find yourself in one. It’s there without a warning and as you live through it, you realize that you’ll remember it for the rest of your life. These moments are hard to describe. I think of them as moments of clarity. You are somehow able to see past all the bullshit that life has in store for all of us and be happy. These are fleeing moments and they do not come often, once or twice a year – perhaps not even that often. However, when they do come, the experience feels rather spiritual. I still remember one such experience from 1997, and an essential part of that memory is our track of the week, ”I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash.
So here’s what happened. I was at the gym, on a treadmill, when ”I Can See Clearly Now” started playing. They had the radio on. I had heard the song before – it is a classic. It was summertime, I was young, in love, healthy, had very few responsibilities and felt light and content. There hadn’t been any major loses or setbacks in my life yet and somehow at that very moment, I was able to really appreciate how easy and carefree my existence was. It was almost as if I knew that my life was not going to stay that way forever, the dark clouds that were gathering in the horizon would rain on my parade eventually. So I grabbed this awesome moment with both hands, felt grateful, counted my blessings and enjoyed my “bright, sunshiny day.”
”I Can See Clearly Now” was released in 1972 and it is by far Johnny Nash’s most famous track. In fact, it’s the one that the oldies stations play constantly. Yet, Nash recorded many great songs during his career that began already in the late fifties. Do yourself a favor and check out at least “Yellow House” and “Hold Me Tight” as they are both outstanding tunes. In addition to being a celebrated songwriter as well as a successful artist, Nash was also instrumental in introducing reggae to the world by signing Bob Marley to a recording contract with his JAD label. Although none of the Marley recordings Nash produced became hits, he included four Marley compositions on his I Can See Clearly album and by doing so, helped the young singer-songwriter take a major leap forward in his career.
To modern ears, there’s nothing terribly unique about the arrangement of ”I Can See Clearly” but at the time of its release, reggae was all the craze and the song must have sounded incredibly fresh and exciting. In a way, it still sounds very fresh. Nash’s arrangement, though laced with reggae, is timeless. I love the Spanish-styled rhythm guitar (played very much in the vein of “Besame Mucho”), the horn section sounds great and obviously, the lead vocal and the harmonies that elevate the song’s chorus are brilliant.
In case you are wondering why I am writing about something that happened twenty years ago, you should know that it’s my birthday today (provided that this comes out on July 11th), just as it was all those years ago when I was at the gym running and listening to our track of the week. Also, “I Can See Clearly Now” came out on June 23 in 1972, a few weeks before I was born. My mom claims that as my dad was driving her to the hospital to give birth to me, this song was playing on the radio. So, this write-up is basically me celebrating my birthday. In previous years, I have just listened to the song; this year I got to write about it. How cool is that? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few bottles of wine to drink.
You can learn more about Johnny Nash here:
About the curator - Tommi Tikka
Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.