Essay on Billy Joel's "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" & Teen Suicide

Billy Joel’s 1985 hit song, ‘You’re Only Human (Second Wind)” may boast an upbeat tempo and a catchy tune, but the message it conveys is much heavier than what the casual listener might perceive its cheerful tune to be expressing. Joel wrote the song, upon request, during a time when the teenage suicide rate was exceptionally elevated. The song was personally influenced by Joel due to the fact, unknown to most, that he himself attempted suicide as a teen.
The song’s lyrics are very to the point, yet provide a quite stern contrast to the tune to which they are set. As has been aforesaid, the melody of the song is very cheery and provides a positive musical connotation to the listener. The coupled words, on the other hand, shed light on the darker aspect of what the true message of the song really is. In the song Joel sings to a young teenage man on the brink of bringing his own life to a premature end by jumping from a bridge (this, obviously, being an allusion to the classic film, It’s A Wonderful Life). He reveals to the him all of the negative ramifications that would come about in lieu of his suicide, eventually changing the mind of the young man, to some extent parallel to the plot of the abovementioned motion picture.
Joel’s message is one of second chances and self-forgiveness, urging teens to look at all their options before acting on a rash suicidal impulse in a moment of seeming hopelessness. One line in the song states that “You’re not the only one who’s ever made mistakes, but they’re the only things that you can truly call your own.” The wisdom in these words is about as close to infinite as it gets. Everyone goes through negative situations and most certainly executes poor decisions that end up backing them into an ugly corner, but it is truly the worst of circumstances that bring out the best of a person and tests their resolve whilst further fortifying their resilience all in one fell swoop. Not only do these sticky situations seem to improve the overall moral fiber of the individual, but additionally they seem to play a vital role in shaping the personality and outlook of the person whom experiences them.
Although I have never been suicidal, I can personally vouch for the validity of my preceding statements vis-à-vis adversities shaping the character of the entity. A recent illustration of such in my life immediately comes to mind in this regard – a particularly nasty breakup that I was able to see coming for quite some time leading up to its inevitable transpiration. I grew anxious and progressively more troubled as it neared, fearing the worst once I was no longer in the relationship, but now that I review it in retrospect (which I have found to be a generally truthful ally), I realize that my level of contentment and overall quality of life has been exponentially enhanced since the experience that I dreaded so much finally occurred. This is a paradigm of life is it not? – Unwarranted anxiety.
Joel tries to get many points across in this song, but the overarching message of this work is clear: suicide is NEVER the best option. Taking one’s own life is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and always has negative ramifications that snowball out from the epicenter of the individual’s ended pain and ends up only causing even more hurt in those who loved them, leaving all of the memories of the departed soul in a state of human intestacy within the hearts and souls of those remaining.





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