In a blog comment by Rob Sheffield titled “Living with Music,” he makes the following statement: “Music follows human beings around, and it keeps wanting more from us -- more passion, more sweat, more memories. Every moment of my life is a soundtrack, so I never know when some song is going jump me by surprise and bring the memory alive.”
The last part of that statement made me laugh,but also pause for the simple truth it tells. I am in all kinds of places that play music in the background, and there is no doubt that occasionally, I will hear a song that "brings the memory alive."
A couple of months ago, I blogged about the song “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is” by Chicago, and how listening to it took me back to my childhood living room, my dad’s hi-fi, and reel to reel tapes.
After reading Rob Sheffield’s comment, I too have thought again about the association of songs with certain memories. So I took a walk down memory lane ...
David and I attend a non-denominational church, and somewhere in the last two decades, the old hymns of my childhood have been replaced by Christian rock and easy melodies. Gone are the hymns like “Victory in Jesus” or “My Hope is Built, “ and they have been replaced by “My God is an Awesome God” or "My Hope is In You, Lord."
Not that there is anything wrong with those songs, it’s just that I miss the old hymns. Recently, out of the blue my church sang, “It is Well With My Soul,” and my eyes welled because it was my father’s favorite hymn.
In the old country church in Fulton, Mo, where my father grew up, his Aunt Alice was a renown soloist . “It is Well With My Soul“ was a frequently requested hymn for her to sing at funerals, and since his aunt had a beautiful voice, she traveled about Callaway County and sang that hymn in many churches. He, as an only child, was never permitted to stay alone on his parents’ farm. His mother was an invalid, and if his father was too busy to watch him, his Aunt Alice dragged him to the funerals, not that there were so many, but his memory of that song and her was quite vivid. At these small, country churches, she sang it with her melodious soprano, without amplification, and sometimes but not always with the accompaniment of a piano. When I hear that hymn, I think of my dad and his Aunt Alice. He chose that song for his own funeral. It’s a bittersweet memory. Do you know the words?
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.
Look up the story of Horatio G. Spafford, who wrote those lines -- see, if it doesn't move you.
When I hear the Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” my childhood bedroom that I shared with my sister swims into memory. One Saturday in 1963, as we did our house cleaning chores, we heard that song for the first time on the radio --- and we stopped what we were doing to listen. I can’t hear it without thinking about the sensation that the Beatles would cause that year in this country. That song and the one on the flip side (known as the B side) of the 45 “This Boy” makes me smile with the innocence of the sentiment that the early Beatles conveyed at the time. It was before the Beatles discovered and experimented with drugs.
I can’t hear Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” without thinking about high school art class, where as a junior I was chosen to join an eclectic group of students to be in charge of all high school decorating needs -- not only for the high school play but for dances, holidays, and bulletin boards in the hallways throughout the school. As we worked on different projects, our art teacher Mrs. Cooper, fresh from the colleges of the late 1960s, allowed us to listen to the radio. She pushed the envelope, in a way, I guess, as music in the classroom was probably considered inappropriate. We loved her for allowing us to listen --it made her “hip.” She apparently ignored the rules as she must have believed it allowed us to be more creative. Every day during that third period class, that song played on the A.M. channel we must have agreed on -- WQXI “Quixie“-- I think it was the most over-played song evah. LOL -- I actually hate that song, but when it comes on the oldies station for the first ten seconds I grin, then for the rest of the time, I cringe. I actually loved Three Dog Night as a teenager, but not that song!!!!
“Jeremiah was a bull frog/Was a good friend of mine/ I never understood a single word he said/But he always had some mighty fine wine.”
The Eagles’ 1972 album brings back memories of my high school boyfriend who introduced me to them. We used to sneak phone calls to each other after midnight during the school week --- our parents already asleep -- I would pull the extension that resided in the hall into my room, stretching the cord as far as it would go, and he would assume the same position at his home with the phone pulled taut into his mother’s pantry. There we would whisper for hours and talk about everything from our youth group at church to books we read to new music to our plans for the future. How furtive yet innocent those calls were -- sometimes lasting into the wee hours of the morning or till our bodies were numbed by the uncomfortable positions we assumed. Many a next morning, I got up bleary eyed to go to school, never realizing those late night future plans that included each other would never come to fruition.
“Brandy” by Looking Glass was selection G4 on the jukebox in the student center of the small Southern college in LaGrange Georgia, that I attended. The lead singer’s distinctive voice and its easy chorus bellowed and echoed from the walls of the center as the young coed who I was crossed the student center to the book store, or my mailbox, or the snack bar in between classes. An easy tune to sing, I can’t hear that song without smiling about the halcyon days of college and remembering the catchy lyrics of -- “Brandy, you’re a fine girl/What a good wife you’d be”….and surprised myself for how easily the words return to me after not hearing that song for thirty years. I grin when I think of how lame of a tune it was….
Then, when I was out of college and in to my first teaching job, I used a clock radio for an alarm to rouse me at the early hour needed to meet the car pool to share the ride with a fellow teacher to our job at Douglas County High School in a neighboring county . Many a morning Bob Seeger’s "Night Moves" seemed to be the song that played when the alarm woke me -- much more desirable that the jarring “1999” by Prince that woke me in the early 1980s. Today, in the car I listened to “Night Moves” on my I-Pod, and Bob Seger crooned, “Ain’t it funny how the night moves?” That’s a song that I never tire of listening to-- perhaps because that line always struck me as both poetic and prophetic.
I can’t help but think of how “the night” has moved for me….no longer that young teacher getting up early to go to her job … no longer that high school girl, that child in her bedroom, or hearing the story told to me by my father of a hymn that took him back to his childhood.
The emotions in hearing songs from the past range from wistful, to joyful, to sad, to nostalgic, to cringing…but, regardless, I know that music stirs me.
Like Sheffield, I too have noticed that we live in a world full of music -- whether I am in Publix shopping for broccoli where I might hear Jackson Browne’s "Here Come those Tears Again” to sitting in a Longhorn where Garth Brook sings about “The Dance,” music surprises us when out of the blue it can remove us from where we are and take us to the past…
As Sheffield noted, “I’ll never know when some song is gonna jump me by surprise and bring the memory alive.”
What song takes you somewhere? Please share.