Duncan Barkes: music is a powerful force

Blinkered supporters of the European Union often roll out the argument that the Political Project was responsible for peace across the Continent after the Second World War.

Some historians, however, reckon that it was a remarkable lady, whose name will mean nothing to most people, who should be credited with restoring post-war relations between Germany and France.

Born in 1930, Monique Serf was a soft-voiced chanteuse whose stage name was Barbara. Jewish, she was, of course, a target.

Having survived the war, and two decades after the end of the conflict, Barbara travelled to the German city of Goettingen.

She immediately fell in love with the place and its people, and was so inspired that she wrote and recorded a song extolling the delights of the city.

First performed live in Goettingen, the song, named simply after the city, there was not a dry eye in the house. Barbara’s music and lyrics were so profoundly heartfelt and sincere.

Historians believe that Barbara’s song, which subsequently was heard and played across France and Germany, did much to heal the raw scars of war that still existed between the neighbouring countries.

I believe music is the language of life.

No matter where you go in the world, and despite the differences in skin colour, culture, religion and politics, music can and does unite people.

A universal language, it can be a powerful force.

We all have a favourite song or piece of music that somehow affects us. It may make us feel elated or sad. Music can inspire, motivate or even comfort us in our darkest moments.

And for me the beauty of music is that it is never ending.

You never stop discovering new works or artistes.

My most recent musical obsession is John Martyn, a British singer/songwriter.

He was a big bruiser of bloke with a large appetite for drink, drugs, fighting and women, yet produced some of the most beautiful and extraordinary music ever. Lyrically he is astute, poetic and soulful, which given his background is a shock in itself; it is so at odds with the man. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

Especially if it is composing a tune, writing a lyric or tapping out a rhythm.