Play It, Sam: What’s On the Soundtrack of Your Life?

To quote Kiki Dee, “I’ve Got the Music in Me”. I’m not sure if it’s just because I am a “middle aged” woman now, but lately a lot of songs that I hear in passing are evoking very strong memories for me. Recently, the song “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” came on while I was cleaning my house. For you youngsters, that’s a sappy song from 1976 that I happen to love. I immediately flashed back to a car ride with a young man who was, at the time, a good friend. When the song came on the radio he started singing it and for reasons I can’t explain, it made me realize I was in love with him. A few days later I discovered he felt the same, we started dating and almost twenty-seven years later we are still together. When the song came on and a huge smile plastered across my face, I was able to share that story with our youngest son and he thought it was pretty cool and it led to me telling him a slightly longer version of how his Dad and I came to start our lifelong love. Yes, it is a little cheesy and sounds like something that would happen in a bad rom-com, but it’s my life and I was thrilled to share it with him.

Those kinds of moments seem to pop up for me more and more lately. There was the day I was driving somewhere with my oldest daughter and the song “Look Away” by Chicago came on the radio. That led to me telling her a story about a high school boyfriend and our multiple breakups and him telling me to think of him when that song played. Well, I guess he got his wish because I still do think of him whether I want to or not all these many years later. It does lead to some fairly funny stories that I can share with my now high school aged children of some of my dating misadventures when I was their age.

The song “Love Shack” for years evoked a horrible memory for me that I won’t go into, but merely hearing the opening notes of the song would take me back to an extremely bad moment in my life. Last year, I directed a group of talented young men and women in a production called “Back to the 80’s”, and that song featured prominently in the show. I was dreading it, I knew I was going to have to hear that song over and over. A funny thing happened, though. I started having fun with the song, choreographed some great moves for it, and by the time all was said and done, I had an amazing new memory that I associated with that song. At one of our final rehearsals, with tears in my eyes, I thanked my cast, which included two of my own children, for giving me a new memory to go with that song and helping clear away a part of my past that I was having trouble shaking. The music that had kept me hostage had finally set me free.

I love to share little stories with my kids about memories that pop up when I hear certain songs. I tell them about camping trips I took with my friends when “A Hard Day’s Night” comes on, about silly dances I did with my best friend when part of “Uma Thurman” plays. I share with them why The Who and U2 always remind me of my high school sweetheart, and how I danced with their Dad to “You Spin Me Round”, which they had no idea was an actual song before Flo Rida used it in his music. I share the crazy breakup story that led to me listening to “One More Time” on a loop for more than an hour one day, which wasn’t easy back in the Walkman days.

My kids love to hear about what songs were my favorites when I was their age, and being a total child of the 1980’s, I have ingrained in them a love of music from that decade that few other modern teenagers likely have. They all know that “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” is my favorite song and most of them will sing along with me as I belt it out whenever it happens to come on. They all bang their heads along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” ala “Wayne’s World” when we are driving, even though none of them have actually seen the movie. When “Sweet Caroline” came on one day I swelled with pride as all of my children filled in a vocal “Bah Bah Bah” during the refrain. I have been able to share concerts with my kids in a way I don’t really remember doing with my own parents, seeing groups such as Styx, Queen, and Billy Joel together.

My kids will already reminisce about certain songs they loved as small children, and even as young adults they get a smile on their face remembering singing along with Elmo or Mr. Nicky. There really is a soundtrack to each of our lives, and I love sharing the stories and experiences music brings with all of my children. As Shakespeare said, “If Music be the food of love, play on”. I hope we can keep playing on together for years to come.

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