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LICENSE TO HEAL WITH MUSIC AND HUMOR

By Jean Eisenhower

The song takes off with a swinging dance melody, jazzy guitar chords, and an infectious rhythm. After a few toe-tapping bars, Greg Tamblyn sings with enthusiasm – odd, considering the lyrics:

I was worried! - ‘bout not writing any songs

No words, no tunes – nothing! – for way too long

I was worried I’d never write again

Maybe there was no more ink in my pen

I thought about that –

And I began to feel ashamed

Tamblyn is not your usual musician, humorist, or therapy consultant.

Therapy consultant? Well, in a manner of speaking, yes. He’s been paid to speak and sing to conferences of therapists and related professionals for years, and he often has them wiping tears of laughter from their eyes – the sort of laughter that comes from knowing.

Tamblyn’s lyrics are the result of what he calls a “lifetime interest in wellness and healing.” His songs cover the gamut, from healing and grieving to dropping uptightness, control issues, having to be right, and so much more. But, as with any good storyteller, he knows that, no matter the subject, there’s always humor to be found. And humor is important to healing in so many ways, as has been testified to for decades now, by physicians from Bernie Siegel to Patch Adams.

But humor in the aid of human psychology is not Tamblyn’s only forte. This funny man is also a masterful songwriter and musician, earning accolades from the likes of Bill Livingston, tenor with the NY Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, and San Francisco Opera, who said, “I can honestly say that I have never been to any musical event in my life that touched me like yours.”

The reason for such power in Tamblyn’s music might be explained by psychospiritual counselor Carol Cole, PhD, LMFT, of the Dallas area: “Music bypasses our psychological defenses, breaks down walls, so people can identify more easily with the messages. Some of my clients are full of anxiety and locked into their emotional stories. I find it useful to have them listen to ‘Writer’s Block,’ to realize how ‘thought triggers feeling.’ Once they’ve laughed at Greg’s trek into and out of dysfunctional thoughts leading to dysfunctional feelings, it’s easier for them to laugh at their own stories. And laughing at yourself can be very healing. That’s part of Greg’s gift – he helps people laugh themselves whole again.”

I was ashamed that I’d been worried about not writing

I’d been through droughts before and come out fighting

Seemed like my worry was out of control

I was ashamed about it down to my soul

Then it hit me what I was doin’

And I started feeling guilty.

“I use his music to inspire – or sometimes make people stop and think,” says personal coach Barbara Allen, CPC, RYT, of Ellicott, MD. “They admit it keeps running through their heads. Using his music is another way to get beneath the layers, because just talking doesn’t go deep enough for most of us. My experience is that people get tied up in themselves, tied up in the brain. They need to learn how to chill out and tap into parts of themselves that they don’t know they’re allowed – parts of the self they aren’t aware of or in touch with.”

Marty Sullivan, MD, Duke University Medical Center, says that Greg’s “music and presence were able to break down walls that no amount of talking could approach.”

I was guilty that I could let myself feel shame

Over something so insignificant as this writing game

I thought I’d released that stuff long ago

Felt guilty that I had such a long way to go

Then I realized what I was doing

And I got embarrassed.

And the song goes on – through anger, resentment, fear, depression and – I won’t give away the ending, but it ends on a note of healing, and humor.

Tamblyn’s talents are not limited to what’s funny about life. He also displays tremendous sensitivity to issues like surviving years in prison isolation (“Stand Like Mountain, Move Like Water”), having one’s child killed in war (“One Day on the Fields of France”), and facing “incurable” disease (“Unconditional Love – the true story of Evy”).

Allen works occasionally with people who are HIV positive, “inner city people, who don’t have a lot of worldliness, few resources, not a lot of hope – and when I play “Evy’s Song,” they go into tears. They ask, I can love myself?

Evy had always said she’d hated her body, she was overweight And now a disease was making her thin, what a twist of fate She was almost out of time, but somewhere in her mind There was something she had to find, if she was to live

She said, It’s something called unconditional love,

Supposed to be really wonderful stuff

I heard if you can get enough, you can find peace

So in the time that I got left, I gotta find some for myself

I believe unconditional love is what I need

Tamblyn, who lives in Kansas City and records his music in Nashville, has written his share of traditional love songs too. Audience favorites, though, are those that focus on the trials and tribulations of love, such as his award-winning “Common Side Effects Include.” This song won top honors out of 140,000 entries in the Just Plain Folks Music Awards. Tagging each verse, about kissing, sex, marriage and divorce, is a send up of the dead-pan pharmaceutical language typically used to warn of drugs’ side-effects:

Do you suffer from common loneliness? Like something in your life is missing? There’s a drug you’ve probably heard of, a natural high called kissing.

Kissing every day melts your blues away

A sudden lift in mood.

The more you kiss, the greater your bliss.

Common side effects include: sweaty palms, heavy breathing, goose bumps, damp knickers, foolish remarks, baby talk, chapped lips, self-help books, phone calls at midnight, flower shops, sudden trips to the drugstore….. chocolate.

Tamblyn also teamed with Bowen White, MD, (author, Why Normal Isn’t Healthy) to write a song about “Type A-ness,” with such cleverness that White – under his pseudonym “Dr. Jerko” – joined Tamblyn onstage in the hilarious recording of the song.

Called “Chicken Soup for a lot of souls out there in the world” by no less than Chicken Soup for the Soul author himself, Jack Canfield, and “a contemporary Mark Twain” by Larry Dossey, MD, Tamblyn continues to write songs, record, and sing at conferences for mental health professionals, hospitals, caregiver associations, community services boards, school counselors, consciousness researchers, churches and corporations. Increasingly, fans approach him, introduce themselves as counselors of one sort or another, and explain how they use his music in their work. Always they echo, “Music reaches people when just talking doesn’t.”

As a critic at the Topeka Capitol-Journal put it, “If music is the universal language, and laughter is the best medicine, then Greg Tamblyn has a license to heal anywhere in the world.”

© 2007 Jean Eisenhower


Tamblyn’s music can be heard, and ordered, online at www.gregtamblyn.com.

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