A Jazz Single Sees One Man Through

For this week's staff song pick, Tony Cox chooses Joe Sample's X Marks the Spot, a song Tony explains helped him through a rough patch in his life.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Today, our staff's song pick of the week comes from NPR's Tony Cox. The tune is "X Marks the Spot" by jazz artist Joe Sample.

(Soundbite of song, "X Marks the Spot")

CHIDEYA: Joe Sample was a hard bop artist in the late 50s when he co-founded the Jazz Crusaders. His music soon turned more electric, and has been pretty poppy ever since. "X Marks the Spot" is a song on Sample's 2002 Album, "The Pecan Tree," dedicated to his Houston roots. As for Tony, he and his wife Susan talked about why that album has a personal note for them.

(Soundbite of song, "X Marks the Spot")

TONY COX: I am a cancer survivor, and five years ago, when I was in the hospital, immediately after my treatment, this album, those songs, were a major part of my recovery. And while I was laying in a bed, I had my finger on my CD player. I didn't have much energy. And as soon as it was over, I would just take my index finger, raise it up, hit the button, and it will play again. And when it ended, I would hear it again. And again. And again.

(Soundbite of song, "X Marks the Spot")

Ms. SUSAN COX (Tony Cox's Wife): I came to see him every single day, when he came out of recovery and they wheeled him into his room at the hospital. Myself and the kids, we made sure that his CD player was right next to the bed. I think sometimes, music is able to give you a sense of healing that you can't get from medicine alone.

(Soundbite of song, "X Marks the Spot")

COX: You have to decide - do I want to live, or not. Once you decide, yes, I want to live, then you have to fight to stay alive. Staying alive meant having the things around me that gave me support - my wife, my kids, my friends, my faith, but the music, man, I cannot tell you how recuperative the power of music is, for me.

And if you can imagine laying on your back, in pain, tubes coming out of you, not knowing what the future's going to hold for you, whether you're going to be around or not be around, you look for an idyllic place to be, just in case.

(Soundbite of song, "X Marks the Spot")

Ms. COX: I remember, when they've debuted it on the radio, and I heard it, and it just was, you know, it's like, wow, Joe Sample has a great hit on his hand. And Joe Sample is someone who suffered a heart attack and, you know, he has had his own health issues. So I'm sure he is also the beneficiary of healing as a result of music, whether his own or someone else's.

COX: Can I say one more thing? It just came to mind. The title of this CD is called "The Pecan Tree" because the pecan tree, which in his case, he was from East Texas, which is also where my family is from. It is known to have, or believed to have, healing powers as a tree.

And this CD was a dedication to that spiritual healing power that he felt growing up in East Texas because there was one of these trees in his family's yard. And there was one of these trees in my grandfather's yard. I had no idea that there was this spiritual recuperative connection to the pecan tree but I believe it now.

(Soundbite of song, "X Marks the Spot")

CHIDEYA: That was NPR's Tony Cox and his wife, Susan Cox. Tony's song pick of the week, "X Marks the Spot," by Joe Sample.

(Soundbite of song, "X Marks the Spot")

CHIDEYA: That's our show for today, and thanks for sharing your time with us. To listen to this show, visit npr.org.

News & Notes was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Tomorrow, money and relationships - working together to keep it together.

(Soundbite of song, "X Marks the Spot")

CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. This is News & Notes.

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