Sunday, May 17, 2015

Catching the Small Joys--Music That Made Me Edition

Rolling Stone just did a cool series "The Music That Made Me," where they asked a bunch of musicians to list the songs that really influenced them.   Then a bunch of bloggers I crush on were prompted by Nancy Davis Kho at Midlife Mixtape to post lists of their own.  I have been a bit obsessed with these lists since then.  I love these peeks into the musicians' and  these writers' lives. Then when she invited me to join her with a list of my own, how could I possibly refuse?!

Music is an ever-present part of my life. There is a soundtrack to my days, and my memories are imprinted with specific songs or artists, the way one puts a label on a file folder. So, this week, I'm going to share a list of songs that bring up joyful memories, regardless of what else is happening in my day.

The soundtrack of my childhood was a mix of 60s and 70s folk and rock.  My Dad, Sir favored the Beach Boys, Irish music, and had a weird obsession with Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."  My mama was more of a rocker, and to this day loves the Rolling Stones. (She  really is awesome!) My folks entertained often, and many of their friends were musical.  I fondly remember sneaking down the stairs from my bedroom to spy on the inevitable jam session.  

As a young teen, I spent hours on the blue living room rug, reading liner notes and playing favorite albums over and over. My best friends, Susan and Mary would come over and we'd pretend we were DJs on Station WKSM (or WMSK or WSMK depending on whose tape we were making). Using my Radio Shack tape deck, we'd record our own mixtapes.  They were a goofy blend of my parents' albums and my growing collection of 70s pop--Sean Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Bee Gees...  

If I had to pick the songs that made me in my beginnings it would have to be:

1. Beach Boys "Sloop John B"

2.  Rolling Stones "Satisfaction"

3. The Clancy Brothers "Whistling Gypsy Rover"

High school for me was, like for everyone I know, the best of times and the worst of times. I had lots and lots of fun, I fell in love for the first time, I suffered my share of trauma.

Through it all, music fueled the joy and soothed the angst. To this day, the opening notes of any song by Prince transports me to summer camp. (I cannot hear "Raspberry Beret" without changing the words to "Leftover Buffet.")  David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" brings to mind my friend Monique's subversive insistence on walking up the DOWN staircase, no matter how fiercely the nuns pursed their lips disapprovingly at her. I might have driven my mother mad when I went through my Warren Zevon stage, playing the "Excitable Boy" album on repeat.  It was likely a relief when I got into 80's post-punk.   Who doesn't love the B52's, Devo, and the Talking Heads? Right? Adam Ant's "Goody Two Shoes" became something of an anthem for me.

If I had to pick a song that made me as a teenager, though, it would have to be something from Rush.  Rush's Moving Pictures Tour was my first concert. Rush was my go-to music for both drowning my sorrows and pumping me up for the next great adventure. I still love Rush today.

4. Rush "Limelight"

In college, I went to a LOT of concerts. I saw Rush every single time they came to town. I saw Lou Reed, the Talking Heads, Squeeze, the Jam, Genesis, Jackson Brown, Elvis Costello, David Bowie, the Moody Blues, Arlo Guthrie & Pete Seeger, Room Full of Blues, Little Feat, Stevie Nicks, Elton John, Peter Frampton, Bruce Springsteen, Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians, the Circle Jerks, the Dead Kennedy's, Pink Floyd, the Hooters, Def Leppard, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tom Petty & the Heart Breakers, Bob Dylan...  I saw pretty much everyone.  

I went to my first Dead show on July 4th in 1986. It was like running off and joining the circus. From that moment, until Thing 1 was born, my vacations were built around the "East Coast Tour." 

5. Grateful Dead "The Wheel/I Need A Miracle/Uncle John's Band."

Then I met my Personal Chef. Our first real date was a doozy.  He came to my preschool classroom and did an incredible ice carving demonstration.  Then he drove me home.  Had me pack for overnight. Flew me to Montreal. (Yes, he is the most remarkable man, and I am the most blessed woman I know.)  James Taylor was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson that night.  He played two songs off of his then new album, "Never Die Young."  Before that trip was over, I knew that I was going to love my Personal Chef for the rest of my life, and James Taylor has provided the soundtrack for that love affair for all these years since.

6. James Taylor "Sweet Potato Pie"

Becoming  a mother was transforming. No duh. It is challenging and messy and heart-breaking and the most incredible experience ever. There are so many songs that bring back the joyful moments of motherhood. Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl"  never fails to bring Thing 1 to mind. The beat of a classic merengue always reminds me of Thing 2 dancing in the kitchen.  Frank Sinatra is forever linked to the Evil Genius for me. The Chairman of the Board had magical powers that could make the lad stop crying mid-wail. If I have to pick music that made me a mom, though, it would be something from Nickel Creek. Where they are each very different individuals, all three share a love of bluegrass. Nickel Creek was Thing 1's & Thing 2's  first concert. As a teeny bean, the Evil Genius' favorite song was their version of "The Fox." (Charmingly, he--and my whole family--called this song "Bones-O".) 

7. Nickel Creek "The Fox"

Travel is a big part of my life. Part of preparing for all my trips--weekend jaunts to the lake house, road trips cross country, jet-setting around the world--includes putting together the "Road Trip Mix Tape".  It's a long-standing tradition that every playlist of travel tunes begins with this song:

8. Little Feat "Fat Man in the Bathtub"

Loss has taken a lot out of me in recent years. The grief is acute, but it is a burden I gladly bear because the love of these friends-who-became family was such a blessing to me. They--and all my sisterfriends and the Men Who Love Them--have helped make me who I am. These two tunes never fail to bring to bring them to mind in a way that is sure to make me smile.

9.  Queen "Bohemian Rhapsody"

10.  The Doors version of "Gloria"

What songs have brought you joy, my beloveds?

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