Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Can music save your mortal soul?

A long, long time ago … I can still remember … how that music made me smile.

If you don’t know that song, you’re not American. And no, I’m not going to sing all nine minutes of it.

Don McLean’s American Pie is an iconic recount of the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper – otherwise known as "the day the music died". It makes you want to drive your Chevy to the levee, drink whiskey and rye and dance… real… slow.

When you hear that song, it likely takes you back to a time in your life. For me, I remember sitting on the bed in my older sister’s room back in the 70’s singing it, along with the Knack’s “My Sharona”, Peter Frampton’s “Baby I Love Your Way” and Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind”.

Think about it. One song can transport your memories and affect you in ways that no other genre can. Does Candle in the Wind make you think of Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana? Does Van Halen’s “Jump” take you back to high school or were you dancin’ to Diamond Dave in diapers at the time? And were you wishing you were younger during the Disco Era or flaunting the white Saturday Night Fever suit?

No matter what, we all have songs that make us FEEL. And that’s what music’s supposed to do. After a bad breakup, there were songs that would literally tear my heart out if I heard them on the radio. In times I was separated from my kids for long periods, Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be in My Heart” made me teary for my babies. And my sister and I are still fighting over the rights to having Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend” played at our memorial service.

I always love to hear stories about old songs from people my parents’ age (not that you’re old, Mom). I often wonder what interesting life ties there are to “I’ll Be Seeing You”, “When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” or “Sentimental Journey” to a person from that era. I bet there are some grand tales to be told about chance meetings, war-time relationships, and lifetime romances that are now in their 50th or 60th year.

I wonder about kids of today and what their memories of music will be. Will Ke$ha’s “We R who we R” make them wax nostalgic of texting marathons into the wee hours of the morning? Is Katie Perry’s "California Girls" going to transport them back in time to the days of YouTube like Def Leppard did for us and MTV? Is Justin Bieber the new David Cassidy? And will these dark and brooding children listening to Slipknot, Disturbed and System of a Down grow up to wonder what the hell they were thinking?

Let’s take a little music poll. What’s a tune that has true meaning to you… and why? Post your comments below. Whether it’s the Beatles, Boston or the Bay City Rollers, I’m always a sucker for the story behind the song.


  1. I was playing on a merry-go-round with my brother at my "adopted" mother's apartment. We were either singing or listening to the song, "Brandy". I told my brother 'The background singers don't think she'd make a good wife'

    'What?' said Bill.

    "Listen to the words: 'Brandy, you're a fine girl (you're a fine girl), what a good wife you would be (such a fine girl)'. See! They don't think she'd make a good wife."

    That was the second time he told me I was smart but the first time didn't count because I had just guessed the answer and got lucky. It meant the world to me to have my big brother think that I was smart. The song takes me back to that merry-go-round every time.

  2. MacArthur Park is a strange song but I always stop and listen to it because it was the song I was dancing to when I got my first kiss. American Pie ranks in the top 5, along with Imagine, Let it Be, What a Wonderful World, and Piano Man.

  3. Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard. Seriously. It reminds me of being in High School and going to the HOI fair when I was 15. Before all this p.c. crap, when they still had freak shows featuring "The World's Tiniest Woman", "Snake Woman", "The World's Fattest Man" and "Tattoed Man". Back when the carnies would try to pass you speed so you'd make out with them (and the answer to your question is NO!).

  4. @ Tracie. That's hilarious! I wrote a blog about the song "Brandy"! It always sends me back to Sky Ranch Day Camp when I was 7 or 8. Awesome!

  5. Sadly, I don't know many lyrics to songs, but I did enjoy the fact that one of the songs you mentioned was “Baby I Love Your Way”.

  6. Maybe that's why the last couple of generations are so screwed up - no decent music to hang on to...

  7. There is a song called "The Mary Ellen Carter" by Stan Rogers. It is about a group of sailors who raise a boat that goes down in a gale. The last lines of it are what I always remember when I'm having a bad day:

    And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
    With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
    Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
    And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.
    Rise again, rise again - though your heart it be broken
    And life about to end
    No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend.
    Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.


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