The Soundtrack of Life

25 07 2011

If your life was a movie, what would the soundtrack look like?  Everyone has their own personal soundtrack.  Music that defines a moment, a year, a decade, a loved one, and lastly…. you.

Twenty years ago I had a good friend ask me, “Can you imagine a world in which there was no music”?  The short answer is, “No I can’t.”  Music ties into so many things in everyday life.

It’s not the first time this premise has been explored.  You only have to think back as far as Kevin Bacon “Angry Dancing” in the warehouse in the cult classic Footloose.  Well I guess in that situation it was dancing that was outlawed, but you need music to dance, so ipso facto it’s the same thing!

Music is woven into the very fabric of our lives.  It brings up memories of wedding days, first loves and lost love ones.  It’s funny, as I’m typing this Dreams by the Cranberries just came on the radio, more about the significance of that later.  Music is the closest thing we have to actually traveling back in time.  Smell is a close second due to the fact that it’s fleeting.  Music however, evokes memories tied to specific events.  If I go home to my dad’s home in Onley, close my eyes and listen to Bob Seger or the Eagles I’m instantly transported back to the late 70’s.  I can almost hear my dad hanging net while the single speaker radio plays on.  I see myself as a small boy, sitting on a wood stool filling needles for him.

If I hear Robert Palmer’s Simply Irresistible or Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me, I’m instantly transported to the Burrito Shack (aka my uncle’s shop) for lunch during my freshman/sophomore year in high school.  White Snake’s Here I go Again takes me to the back of a bus for an away basketball game in eighth grade.

For my white friends only:  Who doesn’t, (a) know the lyrics to Mr.Roboto and (b) sing along when it comes on the radio?

Then there is the full grade school skate ring montage consisting of:  99 Red Balloons, Burning Down the House, and Thriller. This was an interesting time in my life, which is a nice way of saying, “awkward”.  When you’re the chubby kid who has it in his mind that he will probably never have a girlfriend or get that first kiss out of the way, music is a great place to retreat.  I would say sports but that only takes up a few hours a week.  Music helped fill the gaps.  Think of it as the mortar that held the chubby kid, quasi-nerd persona together.

I mean if you’re between the ages of 35 and 40 who doesn’t have visions of a high school slow dance when you hear Drive by the Cars?

I guess one of the unique aspects of music is that each generation has its own music.  And each generation thinks its music is better than the next.  I have to say going to college at the height of  alternative music is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.  Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, are you serious?  Sprinkle in some Cyrus Hill (wink wink) and the other ’90s rap icons who were finding their way (Snoop, Dre & Tupac) and you have a diverse collection of music that has not been duplicated since.

Flashing forward to 2001 and DMX’s Up in Here: brings back visions of a girl I knew, from Warrenton who flew down to visit me in Phoenix and ended up dancing on the bar after a baseball game.  That’s right, “take that” every girl from fourth grade to sixth who didn’t want to hold hands during couples skate!  It’s not how you start out but how you end up.

As a father I’m able to see how things come full circle.  My children call my Classic Rock station “old people music.”  It seems like only yesterday that I mocked my dad’s Credence Clearwater Revival album.  Growing up in the 1980’s, an era that saw the birth of music videos and Michael Jackson, somehow a bunch of white dudes with bowl haircuts bobbing up and down on stage seemed pretty lame.  Today I know different, although lame they had talent.

Which brings us back to the Song Dreams by the Cranberries.  At every major crossroads in my life it seems like this song will be playing.  I vividly remember this song playing driving home from Salem in 1995, it was during this drive I decided to leave Oregon.  As it turns out I decided to get married at 22 which was a disaster.  Look I didn’t say the song played at good points in my life, just major ones.

When I met my wife, Alexis, this song was playing.  We had our first kiss at her condo and it was the first time I thought there may be a connection.  It was the first time in my over-analytical mind I thought there could be some connection between this song and a potentially life changing event.  Is it coincidence, or is it something more?  Who knows, it’s music and for some reason it’s tied into my life.

On the way to the hospital on January 30, 2003, the day our first son was born, and this song came on.  To be honest I kind of expected it.  As I listened I smiled to myself and acknowledged the fact that music helps give meaning and define the story of us, as people taking a trip around this crazy thing called life.

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