I’ve been doing a 30-Day Song Challenge on Facebook for the past 6 days. The Challenge is:
day 01 - your favorite song
day 02 - your least favorite song
day 03 - a song that makes you happy
day 04 - a song that makes you sad
day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone
day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhere
day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain event
day 08 - a song that you know all the words to
day 09 - a song that you can dance to
day 10 - a song that makes you fall asleep
day 11 - a song from your favorite band
day 12 - a song from a band you hate
day 13 - a song that is a guilty pleasure
day 14 - a song that no one would expect you to love
day 15 - a song that describes you
day 16 - a song that you used to love but now hate
day 17 - a song that you hear often on the radio
day 18 - a song that you wish you heard on the radio
day 19 - a song from your favorite album
day 20 - a song that you listen to when you’re angry
day 21 - a song that you listen to when you’re happy
day 22 - a song that you listen to when you’re sad
day 23 - a song that you want to play at your wedding
day 24 - a song that you want to play at your funeral
day 25 - a song that makes you laugh
day 26 - a song that you can play on an instrument
day 27 - a song that you wish you could play
day 28 - a song that makes you feel guilty
day 29 - a song from your childhood
day 30 - your favorite song at this time last year
It started out easy enough because my favorite song, since I was in my teens was I Left My Heart in San Francisco. Schmaltzy? Yes. But a tribute to a City the defies words. We survived two earthquakes that would have destroyed most people - but not the spirit of San Francisco. The happiness of visiting there for the first time when I was a young girl was equaled by the happiness I felt the day I packed my car and drove to San Francisco to live. “I’m going home, to my City by the Bay” has special meaning for me - having conducted my life and career in
my City by the Bay for over 20 years. Friendships, family and love, commitments that I respect and honor to this day and that bit of a tear and an ache in my heart when I think of my City, nostalia for a lost love, a walk on the beach and to be surrounded by two decades of friends and memories. So musical day 1 was simple enough.
Even day 2 and the regurgitated Rico Suave latin rap crap, a video I remember from the original days of MTV. Why in the world does that guy keep taking his shirt off when he sings? I seem to recall he was a hearthrob for a lot of teenage and early 20's girls and I couldn’t help but wonder - where is he today? So I did a quick check and found Gerardo Mujia on Facebook. Looking like he’s probably in his early 40's I must admit, he’s still kinda hot in a Latin Gangster sorta way. But I fear that under the headwrap, he’s most likely bald...
Day 3 got tough and that’s when I started to evaluate this Challenge for what it really is - a walk down memory lane and a chance to claim myself and make a statement about who I am.
There are themes and soundtracks to our lives and every generation has them. From the songs of the Civil War, through WWI and WWII and into Vietnam. Generations of music written as an anthem to our treasured way of life. The words may have been a bit juvenile for some of them, “Mairzy Doats” from WWII being a prime example (though still, a funny little tune that my grandmother used to hum) but the feeling behind them remained the same. Some of the greatest WWII songs - “White Cliffs of Dover”, “I’ll Be Seeing You”, “When the Lights Go On Again” were songs of love and songs of loss, sung by a generation of women left behind as their men proudly went off to war.
That soundtrack changed with Vietnam and our country and those little women left behind got wiser, more determined that maybe, singing about war as something to be happy about, just wasn’t going to be part of their (my) generation. Stephen Stills stepped up to the plate with a song that became an anthem for 1960's “For What It’s Worth” and was joined by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Donovan. That was my generation - a generation that I was proud of despite the fact that our elders thought that all we did was “Tune In, Turn On and Drop Out”. I was at an anti-war rally in my 20's when the declaration of the pull out from Vietnam was issued and came across the speaker system. Someone next to me said “We stopped the war man, we stopped the war!” That sentence stuck with me for years. It stuck with me because I was cynical and jaded and had lost two boyfriends that I had loved. Did we stop the war? Really? Probably not...
But now, 40 years later and thinking back on it, maybe we did. Maybe what it took was to shake the government loose from their belief that the voter didn’t really count. So in that essence, and to quote the rather stoned guy standing next to me that great day - we stopped the war man, we stopped the war!
Themes came and went each season. Winter’s music was darker, heavier and then summer would come and a blast of beach music and reggae made the sun shine even brighter.
And as people came and went in our lives, we remembered them and the times we shared by with music. Think about your first love - and “your” song together. The music they played at the prom, our first kiss song, our first breakup song.
My first kiss was from Shawn Boone, a boy in my class. He held my hand and it was 1966. We were sitting around a record player spinning 45's and someone was playing “Gloria” by the Shadows of Knight. It was a huge deal at that time and now, all these years later, every single time I hear that song (and it’s been recorded by some of the finest people in music) I remember Shawn Boone and that kiss.
Music becomes our legacy - the memory of who we are and who we were. Maybe even who we want to be.
When a song is powerful enough to evoke a memory of someone, some time, some place, then we have created a living tribute and memory of that person and that event. I have no idea whatever became of Shawn Boone, I can’t even picture what he looked like way back then - but I will remember his name and the music that was playing on that special day and he will live forever in my memory.
Such is the case, I believe, with all of us. If you sit down with paper and pencil and start to list some of your favorite or least favorite songs - a memory becomes associated with why that song stays in your mind. It’s never really about the melody or the words, but about our associations with that song.
A boy I loved in high school committed suicide on my 19th birthday. John Ehlers was from an exceptionally religious and overbearing family and he spent his teenage years rebelling against them and all they stood for. He grew his hair down to his shoulders and had a full beard. He wore patched Levis and rock band t-shirts.
He used to come to my house at night and stand under my bedroom window and talk - anything to be away from his missionary parents. We got older, we went off to college, moved away. We grew up. But John just didn’t want to, couldn't and just couldn’t face what he must have perceived as a life without hope. And he ended it.
I remember the morning that my friend Mike called to tell me the news about John. It was overwhelming for me - I did not know how to accept that I would never see his face again. Up to that point, I had never been to a funeral or seen a dead person.
We went to John's funeral, a dismal affair directed by his parents and church members. None of us recognized John because his parents had cut off his hair and had him clean shaven. John would have been unhappy with that part of the final sendoff.
But he had the forethought to prepare a list of songs he wanted played at his funeral. Quite knowledgeable for someone who was 20 years old when he died.
Much to his parents’ considerable dismay and outward show of anxiety, and playing at full volume at the recessional was Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” which had been released that year on the Yellow Brick Road LP. While his friends may not have recognized him in that monstrosity of a mahogany casket, we all knew his biting sense of humor had caused us to laugh, to remember good times with him and it really pissed off his parents. If there is a place where we all end up when we die, I hope like crazy that I run into John. And until that day, whenever I hear that song on an oldies station, I see John’s face, I remember his soul and his gentle good nature. And I always will...
That’s the power behind the songs that we attribute to our human trademarks. It’s why we have ringtones and signature signoffs.
So think about it. When you finally die you hopefully live on with your family and friends. What song will trigger that warm feeling that comes with a long, deep memory? How do you want to be remembered?
As for me, Van Morrison said it best when he wrote “Into the Mystic”
"We were born before the windAlso younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic
And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don't have to fear it
And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And magnificently we will flow into the mystic
When that fog horn blows you know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows I got to hear it
I don't have to fear it
And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will flow into the mystic..."