Almost every significant moment in my life has a musical memory to accompany it. You could call it my own personal soundtrack. Music has a way of attaching itself to experiences in a way that is lasting and emotional. Whether it lingers subtlety in the background or rocks your face off, music is a part of our story.
My earliest memory of having ownership in music was sitting in my miniature rocking chair in my room, listening to a 45 record of “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. (I guess I’m showing my age here., but I was VERY young.) I played that little record over and over, until I knew every word—probably before I even knew my ABC’s.
After that, I remember my mother being obsessed with the “Grease” soundtrack. It was a two-album set, and the record sleeve was also a book with the song lyrics and screen captures from the movie. I would lie on my stomach on the floor flipping through the book, making up my own version of the film because I wasn’t allowed to watch it yet. When my mother liked a song, it was turned all the way up. The sound would fill the whole house, and she and I would dance like a wild woman. These memories are filled with songs from Michael Jackson, Barry White, John Denver and the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album.
My first cassette tape was Madonna’s “Like A Virgin.” This music gave me life. It was the quintessential sugary, pop music that I craved. My cousin and I made up dance routines to “Dress You Up” and “Material Girl.” We forced family members to sit and watch us jump and flail around the room in a mostly synchronized fashion. They were nice enough to clap at the end, though we never were any good. The thing is—it didn’t matter. The music spoke to us in a “get up and shake it” kind of way. It still does.
When CDs arrived, I was more into lyrics and how they pertained to my life. I could identify with the emotional ties, with hard-hitting bass, with heartache and pain. Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Radiohead, Garth Brooks, Alanis Morissette, The Fugees, Dr. Dre, TLC, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Counting Crows, Green Day and many more were pulled from their plastic jewel case and stuffed into pockets in a zippered album. This is how we made music mobile. My biggest album could hold about 200 CDs, and it stayed in my car. That collection provided music for every road trip—be it an epic impromptu trip to the beach or the five-minute trek to the corner store. Either way, the windows were down, the music was up and we shouted the lyrics with every fiber of our rebellious hearts.
In today’s digital age, music is more accessible than ever. We download, stream, build playlists and listen to radio stations online. My digital music library is vast and extremely eclectic. Not all of my old favorites made it into this new collection, but it is a work in progress. These days I am unapologetic about the music I like. I don’t rule out whole genres like I did as a teenager. Every song is given a chance to move me in some way—emotionally or physically. I connect with the artists now. I recognize the art of music and the talent it takes to create it. All of this comes with maturity, I suppose.
And still, when I am old and grey, complaining about the garbage my grandkids listen to, I will look back on these days and remember the fierce sounds of Lady Gaga and sweet melodies of Ed Sheeran. My life’s soundtrack will tell the world who I am, how I loved and why I cared. What will yours say?