The Soundtrack of My Life
Continuing the blogging challenge from Kait over at Communikait, I am writing today about my life soundtrack. It is a lengthy post. I may be the only person who ever reads the entire thing. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. How do you identify and describe the songs that define different periods in your life and keep it brief? For me, it’s not possible. It turns out Memory Lane is a really long road. So, without further ado, here are the songs that define my youth, my 20s, and my 30s.
Songs from My Youth
Looking back at my childhood, I can see how my musical taste has been heavily influenced by my mom and my grandma from the songs they played when I was young. As I grew older, I started developing my own preferences, but they have firm roots in the folk/country/oldies genres my mom and grandma played.
Peter, Paul and Mary
“This Land is Your Land”
My mom used to sing this to me at bedtime when I was very young. Her love for ‘60s folk music has really influenced my musical preferences. And, with the exception of that not so small issue of Native Americans being in America first and everyone else coming in and decimating their homes and hunting grounds, I really do believe that this land was made for you and me.
“I Will Always Love You”
I heart Dolly. I remember watching the Dolly variety show when I was 5, and I also remembering watching her and Kenny Rogers sing “Islands in the Stream” together. In fact, I brought a newspaper clipping of Dolly and Kenny Rogers as my show-and-tell one time when I was in Kindergarten or 1st grade. Dolly wrote “I Will Always Love You” and I prefer her more subtle performance of it to Whitney Houston’s epic version from The Bodyguard”.
“Heaven is a Place on Earth”
When I think of my ‘80s childhood, this is the song I think of. I’m pretty sure it was playing on the bus to and from school a lot, because there’s no way my mom was listening to it on her oldies radio station.
Elton John with Kiki Dee
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”
Also when I think of my ‘80s childhood, I think of this song. Some version of it was made with Minnie Mouse, I watched it at daycare, and that is how I learned to love it.
“You Make Me Feel So Young”
When I was in elementary school, we bought both Frank Sinatra’s Duets and Duets II and I would listen and sing and dance to the old standards with my grandma. It was fun to bond with my grandma as she reminisced about singing and dancing to these songs in her heyday during the ‘40s and ‘50s.
This song, and really any oldies song from the ‘50s, ‘60s, or ‘70s, reminds me of riding in our light blue Plymouth Voyager minivan, singing along to 97.3 KBSG. If you’re from the Seattle area and your parents are baby boomers, you know what I’m talking about here. My mom said she could always tell which of my friends had older parents and which of them had younger parents by looking in her rearview mirror and seeing who knew every word to every song on the oldies radio station. To this day, I still know pretty much every song to come out of those three decades. From the Big Bopper to the Beach Boys to Janis Joplin to Fleetwood Mac, I not only know the oldies, I love the oldies too. I think it was the golden age for music in our country.
New Kids on the Block
“Step by Step”
I looooved New Kids On the Block when I was in elementary school. They were the first musical group I loved all on my own without any parental influence. I had a New Kids on the Block pillowcase. Joey4Ever. 🙂
This is my favorite song from middle school. The ‘90s grunge music wasn’t really my style when I was 13 – too harsh, too edgy, too jarring. I can appreciate Nirvana now, but when I was an adolescent, I wanted some light I could hang onto to get through those tumultuous years. Dolores O’Riordan’s voice was beautiful, and this song gave this dreamer some hope.
“Across the Universe”
I heard this song for the first time in middle school, and I think my affection for it shows how much of a hippie I really am on the inside. I fell in love with the poetic quality of the song and the images the words evoked, but I also felt it to be a spiritual song that made the universe feel infinite. I also really liked the line “Nothing’s going to change my world”, because I was experiencing so many changes as a 13 year-old and was ready for all the changes to stop.
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”
I grew up in a neighborhood teeming with children. We played with each other every single day – baseball, basketball, football, tag, bikes, capture the flag… We were a pretty tight bunch, even as we got older and started doing separate activities at the high school.
My cousin’s best friend, Matt, was one of the neighborhood kids. He died the summer before our sophomore year in high school, and it just gutted us all. My grandma got a plot in the cemetery near his headstone so that her grandchildren could visit both her and Matt at the same time. His favorite song was Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. Any time we hear it, we know Matt is sending us his love.
Songs from My 20s
When I reflect on my 20s, they were fairly adventurous. I worked in a cannery in Alaska for two summers when I was 20 and 21; began my appreciation for wine at age 21 (wink, wink); graduated from college at age 22; took a solo trip to Ireland when I was 24; “met” my husband again at 24 before moving to Nashville while I attended graduate school between the ages of 24 to 26; moved to Maui all by myself three days after being hired over the phone to teach Kindergarten when I was 26; and got married at 28. I faced a lot of changes, experienced different regional cultures in the U.S., and started my career. It was a pretty exciting decade in which I began to figure out who I am and just what kind of mettle I’m made of.
“Have You Ever”
This is just the perfect Pacific Northwest song. The lyrics capture the essence of finding yourself whilst simultaneously finding your place within nature. It makes me think of cross-country skiing, surrounded by mountains and snow-capped trees.
Mary Chapin Carpenter
“Down at the Twist and Shout”
When I was in college, I worked in a cannery in Alaska for two summers. There wasn’t much to do there during our time off, but we did do karaoke every now and then. This is my karaoke song. It’s fun, it has French phrases, and it’s so fast you can barely call what you’re doing singing.
Mary Chapin Carpenter
I like how in this song the shirt is used to illustrate the changes the singer experiences in her life as her one constant throughout her years.
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World”
Probably Iz’s most famous song, my side of the family has used it often on formal occasions. Hawaii is a special place for us, and the ukulele and Iz’s falsetto in this song connect to the longing in our hearts for our island home. A string trio played it as the recessional song at my wedding, and we have also played it at both my grandmother’s and my mother’s funerals.
“You Are the Best Thing”
This is the song my husband and I danced to at our wedding. It’s a beautiful song, but be warned, it is a very long song to dance to when all eyes are on you!
“Club Can’t Handle Me”
My go-to workout song. Hands down, takes me to the finish line every time.
Songs from My 30s
I remember when I turned 30, I was so excited. I thought I had a decade ahead of me in which my life would stabilize and everything would fall into place. Plans have since gone awry. Only one of my dreams has come to fruition, and that one dream (having a child) has turned out to be the opposite of stabilizing! What I’m learning is that the sure thing is never sure and life is going to take you on detours, through valleys, and, I’m hoping, up to the summits of great mountains. I’ve become much more introspective in the last few years, which I think can be seen in my songs that I’ve associated with this period in my life.
Michael Franti & Spearhead
“The Sound of Sunshine”
Happiness in song form. Every year, the school I taught at on Maui holds an event called ‘Ohana Day in which the students perform dances for their parents at the end of the school year. Our 4th graders danced to this song a few years ago, and it was the first time the classroom teachers and our dance teacher never got tired of listening to an ‘Ohana Day song during our weeks of endless practicing.
“On the Road Again”
Every road trip begins with this song. We’re a road trip family, and I insist this song should be played more often than it probably should.
My mom, my husband, and I were on a road trip when I was pregnant (see, I told you we’re a road trip family) and this song popped up on our Pandora station. I listened to it again and started crying at the end. Honestly, everything made me cry when I was pregnant (and that fact hasn’t changed almost two years after giving birth), but it’s just such a wise song. “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em/Know when to fold ‘em”… “There’ll be time enough for countin’/When the dealin’s done”…
This song is off of Brandi’s latest album and it encapsulates everything I feel about being a mom: my endless love for my child, the frustration when I miss out on doing things because I am stuck taking care of a baby, the sleepless nights, the wonder of seeing the world through the eyes of a child again. It’s all in that song.
The Head and the Heart
I think it may be because we are of similar ages, but I connect very much to songs by The Head and the Heart. “Fire/Fear” resonated with me this past winter with the lines “I want to feel the fire again, with you or anybody else/I want to feel the fear again, with you or anybody else”. I connected to this in a bigger picture way. I felt I had stagnated and I wanted to feel passionate about my life again. I didn’t care if I continued teaching and stayed in the same town, or if we decided to make a drastic change and move across the globe. I just wanted to feel again.
“Learn to Be Still”
I first heard this in my 20s, but I didn’t really understand it until my 30s and had started practicing yoga. I think the world needs this song more than ever. It reminds me to look inward rather than outward for contentment and to find satisfaction in where I am and in what I have at this moment in my life. If I’m not satisfied now, I will never be satisfied even if better things come along. (Note: I cannot find an actual Eagles version of this song on YouTube.)
“In My Life”
I think I loved this song the very moment I heard it as a child. I chose this as the last song on the video of my mom’s life in pictures that we played at her memorial. The line “In my life, I love you more” resonates with me, because that’s how my mom felt about her family and that’s how I feel about my family.
Written by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Willie covers this song with his son Lukas Nelson. I was listening to it a lot right before my mother died, and I almost feel like the lyrics were instructions from the universe, warning me about what was to come. It’s almost painful to listen to now, because the lines “Stay with me/Let’s just breathe” and “Love you till I die/Meet you on the other side” hit too close to home.
If I were to summarize my life soundtrack, it would be folksy/country with a dash of whimsy. Did you identify any of these songs as mileposts in your life?
What would definitely be included in the soundtrack of your life?