Truth? I have no musical abilities. This is only surprising because my mother was almost a professional pianist, but that talent passed right over me. I have a voice only my children can love.
Recently, I was driving in the car and my son was in an uncharacteristically surly mood. Then, an acoustic version of Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon came on. For some inexplicable reason, my kids LOVED that song when it came out. It hooked them, with its catchy beat, its cheesy video, and the fact that it gave them the ability to scream “SHUT UP AND DANCE!!!” during its chorus, without reproach. That morning, my son could not help but sing along with a big smile. And, just like that, his dour mood had vanished.
I started thinking about all the different songs which briefly but instantly transform me back to different, wonderful parts of my life.
High on You by Survivor. I cannot explain how we even started listening to this one, but in high school, my lifelong best friend and I could not get enough of this song. It is just so happy. I still text her when this song randomly comes on the radio to tell her I am thinking of her.
We Dance from Once on This Island. What happens when four sheltered high school girls from the suburbs made a date in NYC to see a lesser known Broadway musical? Pure magic. It was an incredible performance (LaChanze!!! The oh so attractive Papa Ge, Sly Demon of Death! Sigh!) This seemingly simple but powerful story of love and redemption, race and sacrifice, moved each of us beyond words. I played the cd so frequently that my brother became a huge fan, without ever seeing the show. The four of us are talking a reunion show after this play returns to Broadway in May 2017!
Possession by Sarah McLachlan and the entire Fumbling Toward Ecstacy album. When I hear “Listen as the wind blows…..”, I am transported back to a Eurorail train. My girlfriend and I spent three weeks traveling before studying in England one semester in college, and we constantly passed that tape between us to play in our walkmans as the countryside whizzed past.
Graceland by Paul Simon. What better way to celebrate the week before college graduation than four women driving from Upstate New York to visit Elvis’s home!
Heartbeats by José González. We danced to this one at our wedding. We wanted something short (no choreographed routine for us) and a little uncommon. I vetoed my husband’s first pick, Kicking the Heart Out by Rogue Wave, a free itunes download which met the same criteria but did not seem to send the right sentiment. Other honorable mentions bringing back great memories of that special weekend include our bridal party entering the ballroom to A Little Less Conversation by Elvis Presley, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, which closed down the event.
I’m Yours by Jason Mraz. This one took over the airwaves when I was first a new mom. For me, this song became a symbol of my endless devotion to the infant strapped in the carseat behind me, and I would belt it out, unabashedly, for his listening pleasure. When he was a toddler, he was briefly obsessed with the Sesame Street video of Jason Mraz and Elmo singing Let’s Go Outdoors to the same tune. (That one was a savior on a few difficult car rides, back in the day.) Fast forward a few years, and my daughter adopted this song, which she identifies as “You done done me.” It has been part of her nightly bedtime catalogue for years now and it can still bring tears to my eyes.
You Are the Best Thing by Ray LaMontagne. This one stole my heart when my daughter was brand new. Now, “You are the best thing ever happened to me” is our language, one of the ways we say I love you to each other.
This Night by Billy Joel. Classical music was (and is) my mother’s jam. But she always was a fan of Billy Joel. The man transcends generations and genres. She really loved this song, which incorporated Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata in its chorus. This past February, said lifelong best friend mentioned above charmed our way into front row seats at one of the Madison Square Garden concerts.
Maybe halfway through the show, Billy Joel said he was going to play a song that he has not performed in a long time. I was in awe when the deep baritone of This Night began. It felt like a sign of something bigger than me, and I was beyond moved.
My playlist could go on and on, a musical homage of a life richly lived, so full of Love and Luck.