Today, I was running some errands for work and I stopped into a uniform shop to order some labcoats for the doctors. While I was there, Jewel's "Down So Long" came on the radio. I had such a visceral reaction that the saleslady actually had to reach across the counter and grab my arm, saying "Hey! This the right monogram?"
It wasn't so much the song itself as hearing Jewel's voice. I'd sort of tuned her out after "0304" came out, but in doing so, I also shied away from a part of my coming of age that Jewel was apart of. It's sort of strange, thinking back on it, because I doubt I would have ever said Jewel was one of my favorite artists. But I spent countless hours of my teenage years listening to "Pieces of You" and "Spirit." My first car (not counting my mom's car that I totaled--not my fault!),a beat up 1990 Mazda MX6, only had a cassette player--the radio didn't work--and I played "Pieces of You" so many times that the tape broke (leaving me with Alice in Chains "Dirt", The Traveling Wilburys "Volume 1" and Eric Clapton's "Greatest Hits"). I remember lying on my bedroom floor, reading the poems in the liner notes of that CD and trying to write my own similar ones, because Jewel was my first introduction to free verse and I loved the freedom of it. The story of Jewel living in a van when she was a teenager resonated with a kid who badly wanted some assurance that shitty circumstances could lead to good things and that independence was achievable and worth fighting for.
I think there's this sense of constant struggling in her lyrics, whether it's with the falseness of the world around us or drugs or lost love or with self-identity...and I think that personified a lot of my emotions through those years (and hell, even now) in a way that other artists I listened to at the time didn't. She was something of a gateway to other artists I could relate to in that sense, especially that other well known poetry writing folkster, Ani DiFranco.
It's a little embarrassing to devote an entire entry to my teenage love of Jewel, but I can't shake that feeling of nostalgia. When I got home, I downloaded "Down So Long," along with a couple of other Jewel songs and I've been listening to them on repeat. They still evoke a kind of confused determination that I find very comforting right now.