Music, Lyrics, and Memories

Vinyl FavoritesRecently, a virtual friend—in the olden days we called them Pen Pals—and I opened the kimonos. We’ve exposed our guilty pleasures, the popular contenders for the desert isle list, the shower playlist, and even our closet loves, from our respective music libraries. OK, so maybe we’ve only scratched the surface, but we have started swapping histories and fessing up the nitty gritty. It’s early days yet. Time will tell just how much we reveal.

For some, divulging the contents of their music library to another is as personal of a story as it is spilling the beans on first kisses and intimate secrets. It can be awkward. It says things about you. It can end a friendship before it has a chance to bloom. I’d think twice about someone whose love for Yanni was boundless. As one would walk away from me upon learning that I have ABBA’s greatest hits in multiple languages.

It’s a dicey proposition talking truths about one’s self.  I want to know the person I am inviting into my past is worthy of the story. Revealing my musical favorites, the why and how they came to be, is serious business. What if they balk my admiration and love of Dolly Parton? What if I don’t feel passionate about Dylan’s scratchy voice like my new friend might? Will we have a future as friends? It’s hard enough unraveling your complicated self without the added pressure of sharing musical vinyl collection

Regardless if you’re a music junkie or a top forty sort of person, music is woven into your histories. You might think Mumford and Sons are the names of a family plumbing business, and maybe you’ve always assumed Taylor Swift was the name of the seamstress who hems your grandmother’s polyester pants. Maybe if you lived under a rock you’d believe this was how the Sons and Taylor earned a living. Still, there is no denying the artist’s music has probably embedded itself in the recess of your subconscious.

The first time I heard “I Will Wait” I was sitting in the Post-Op Recovery room next to my dad’s bed. I had plugged into my iPod flipping through back issues of Travel and Leisure. I remember thinking how the magazines were the perfect distraction. Each turn of the page, I transported someplace exotic. Traveling from the drab room I saw myself wandering aimlessly down the cobblestoned streets of some little village in northern Italy. The members of family all lost own thoughts and prayers. All of us hoping against some serious odds the doctors were successful removing the nasty brain tumor that was causing blackouts and memory leaks when. Then, And I came home/Like a stone, pierced my imaginary Italian holiday, and brought me back to the present. Dad opened his eyes a few minutes later.

“Bren, I’m going to be a poet. Can you find me a notebook and a pen?”

“I Will Wait”, is personal.

These days of dust/Which we’ve known/Will blow away with this new sun.

The lyrics carried me through the multiple rounds of chemo while we all waited for the sun and the possibility of more time together. Do I want to tell someone why I like this song? Maybe not, but if asked I’d agree it was a catchy tune but I’d leave out what the song means to me, why, and where it takes me whenever it circles ‘round on the airwaves.

Of course, not every song in my library carries equal emotional weight. “Down on the Corner” by Creedence Clearwater Rival takes me to my childhood home. Mom and Dad were famous for the impromptu dinner parties, complete with good food, music, and dancing. Now when I hear CCR, I can’t stop my hips from swinging. I lift my arms and snap my fingers in harmony with John Fogerty’s backwoods yowl. And then there is Gage’s “You and I.” I apologize in advance if you happen to pull up alongside my little red Fiat when I’m backing Ms. Gaga. I can’t help myself I have to sing.

Year in year out I accumulate fodder for my musical memoir. For me, some chapters are tied into a single song. There are soundtracks from Hollywood blockers, Shrek, for instance is the summer I started scribbling down ideas for a novel, which after going through several rewrites is being published this year. It’s fitting that Loving is Good—the current title assuming the Editor doesn’t change it—grew from the song “You Were Always on My Mind.”

Exposing my lifelong collection of music is personal, it’s telling and not something I do lightly. How our brains (and our hearts) respond to music continues to intrigue me. Your musical choices can define you as well as unite us.

What song, regardless of where you are, brings you to your knees or causes your hips to sway?



I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

15 thoughts on “Music, Lyrics, and Memories

    • Astra, ABBA isn’t as bad as the Bee Gees. And Morrison’s song is the best. Many of his songs are on my favorites list. I can feel myself giving way to a Van session.

  1. I distinctly remember the first time I heard Dylan’s song, “Dark Eyes.” It was late at night, I was alone in my car, and I wept. For the poetry, for the music, for the crystalline sense of loneliness, objectivity and heightened sensitivity captured in this lyric:

    “Oh, the gentlemen are talking and the midnight moon is on the riverside
    They’re drinking up and walking and it is time for me to slide
    I live in another world where life and death are memorized
    Where the earth is strung with lover’s pearls and all I see are dark eyes.”

    You’re right to be careful about sharing your music. There isn’t much gap between it and your heart, is there?

  2. Music has the magic in it, that combination of sound, words, the moment, the memory, an imprint.

    Whenever I hear the song ‘What If God Was One Of Us’ I am immediately transported in time to the very first day I ever met my birth father, he picked me up from the airport and we were driving to go have coffee and a very long chat and this song came on the radio. And I am sure we both were wondering. It’s rare to hear it but when I do it’s amazing the astral-travel like feeling I get from it.

    The other one that often I don’t even have to hear it, but certain special moments make me want to (and sometimes I do) burst into song, as it captures so many of the sentiments I would have been filled with at the time is Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’. I wish I was inpired to sing it more often!!

    Great post Brenda, thanks for sharing your magical music moments. :)
    Claire ‘Word by Word’ recently posted….The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von ArnimMy Profile

    • Hey Claire – now that is a memory to share, and you are correct about that feeling of the song. I had to go listen. You know what they say, timing is everything. I can understand your reaction. I haven’t heard Perfect Day in a long while but I can hear it in my head.. Time for a listen.

  3. I take my music very seriously and only share my favorite songs/bands with someone I know I can trust. That may sound silly, but I’m protective of the music I love because some may find it weird. There are so many songs from the 90’s that get me on my feet and have me belting out the words. I can’t think of one off the top of my head that makes me fall to my knees or my hips sway, but I know there are plenty of both. :)

    • Hi Chrys… I know what you mean about music sharing. All of us judge. I don’t believe it is always intentional, but when it comes to music and books, probably all literary passions, the snob in us comes out. A top forty lover may totally not get someone’s preferences for classical or the rap. Music for some can be extremely personal.

  4. Beautiful post, Brenda, and quite unique because I haven’t seen many authors talk about music and how much it affects their soul. I believe I may have posted something like this last year or the year before because I connect with music on such an emotional level and it is quite fascinating.
    I am never afraid of what others think of my music collection, in fact, I am quite open about it. Just a few weeks ago, my beau and I were driving and “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits came flooding on the radio. I was bopping head and swaying my arms like it was nothing!
    And this might sound corny but songs like “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine make me tear up because I watched the Titanic when it first came out back in the 90s in the theatre with my first love who died from a brain aneurism. And of course, “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan has the same affect.
    When I am running, it’s all vocal, uplifting trance because the words take me to exotic places like Ibiza or Costa Rica instead of the gym or the track. Songs like “Ordinary Human” by One Republic lift me up spiritually and physically so I listen to this when I am lifting to enhance my strength. “Today I felt a switch in my vein… Used to be a shadow, Now a shadow scream my name.”
    And when I am writing, I listen to anything from New Age to Florence and the Machine, depending on what piece I am working on.
    Music defines us in so many ways. And the more flavors we add to our collection, the more versatile our minds and hearts become.
    I am so happy to be back. Reading your writing again has inspired me even more to continue my own journey, Brenda.
    And I love your new website! Beautiful author photo!
    Gina Stoneheart recently posted….The Comeback KidMy Profile

    • Thanks, Gina. Is’t wonderful to see you back in the groove again. I love your list of songs. I don’t admit it often, but I have a good collection of Celine songs. She packs a punch. I agree with you about our emotional connection to music, a song, and how it can render us immobile for a moment.

  5. You know, Brenda, I must confess there isn’t any one song which makes me want to dance with abandon; there are too many to list, and my tastes have changed through the years. One song that always makes me cry, though, is “When Love Takes You In” by Steven Curtis Chapman. It is Danny’s and my song and was played at our wedding.
    Love your eclectic taste, by the way!
    Martha Orlando recently posted….The Time of DayMy Profile

    • Martha, for all of us it’s different. I can’t go a day without music. When Love Takes You In, is such a wonderful song. I understand why it brings a tear or three.

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