Five Essential Songs For Starting Over

A baby. Photo: Harold Lambert/Getty Images

Admittedly, 2012 didn’t start out so hot to begin with, but despite a few undeniable bright spots, it sure has ended up as the kind of year most folks will be more than happy to close the book on and move forward. But as we get set to ring in the next 365, we’re sure to need some serious fortitude. Facing the future’s never simple, even if you have an idea where you’re headed, and like most things, it’s easier with the right music to inspire you. With that in mind, here are some tunes tailor-made for taking a deep breath and beginning the whole mad march all over again in a brand new year.

1. Gil Scott-Heron, “I’m New Here”

When he released this low-key ode to renewal, written and originally cut by Bill “Smog” Callahan, HIV sufferer and longtime drug addict Heron had little more than a year to live. But despite appearing (and probably feeling) at least a decade older than his 61 years, and having endured years of soul-shaking tribulations, he was still game for showing a fresh face to the new day and declaring “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone, you can always turn around,” with Oakley Hall/Oneida axeman Pat Sullivan assisting.

2. Clare & the Reasons, “You Got Time”

This Brooklyn band’s still-small discography has already seen contributions from the likes of Sufjan Stevens and My Brightest Diamond, and the creamy coo of Clare Manchon offers the kind of perspective that’s crucial for pushing towards tomorrow without reservation, reassuring remorseful souls, “You got time to turn around and make things right.”

3. The Kinks, “Better Things”

This open-hearted anthem from the Kinks’ 1981 album, Give the People What They Want, has been covered through the decades by everybody from Fountains of Wayne to Pearl Jam, and its evergreen message of optimism and compassion can make even the most hardened soul all mushy inside. There are few better soundtracks to pressing on in the wake of woe.

4. John Lennon, “(Just Like) Starting Over”

Like Gil Scott-Heron, John Lennon was at his most life-embracing shortly before his death. Lennon was tragically taken from us just weeks after this jubilant single appeared in 1980, but in this last hurrah he simultaneously celebrated his deep union with Yoko Ono and anticipated a fresh start for his career. The fact that he was so cruelly cut down doesn’t detract from the song’s ongoing ability to fully fill one’s spiritual sails.

5. Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

The oppressively ubiquitous “Hallelujah” be damned — this is the ultimate (and aptly titled) Cohen anthem of perseverance and revival. There’s a good reason one of the most quoted choruses from the fulsome catalog of this master songsmith is “Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”

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