If I look back over my life, all 58 years so far, it was music that kept me going—through days, hours, minutes, seconds, years…there was always music. Music was the touchstone of my days, the guardrail that kept me sane, happy, peaceful, absorbed in the magic of being alive.
Sure, there were many other things as well: people, loves, family, reading, art, jobs, bikes, hikes, the ocean, the mountains, sno-cones and ice cream sandwiches.
But music was the thread, the carpet, the tapestry I walked upon through all this journeying.
I’m sure many of us have the same emotional connection to music. Memories of songs we heard when we were young. Touchstone tunes from high school that bring us back to that magical moment when we had a boyfriend or girlfriend. Or when we won some sports game and they played a song over the loudspeaker.
Music is so damn magical it just adds a soothing sauce to our crusty days.
No wonder music is so prominently featured on movie soundtracks. Certain songs cement in the moment with such a definite emotional character.
What songs inspired you through the span of your days?
I remember singing “Georgie Girl,” an old 60’s tune. I actually don’t remember singing it. I lied. My mom said I used to sing it when I was 3 or 4 years old.
But it still unlocks some deep, unknown strong feeling in me when I hear it.
I do remember the song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass. Classic song. I was 8 years old. It was the summer of 1972. I distinctly remember getting onto an old yellow school bus to go to summer camp. I had a lunchbox my mom packed. She added some roasted peanuts to the lunch and they spilled out into the lunchbox. I remember getting onto the school bus and the bus driver had a small transistor radio slung on his steering wheel.
I remember the day I got on the bus to go to summer camp and that song, “Brandy” was playing on the radio as I boarded the bus.
I remember sitting in the seat, hearing that song filter through the bus like some magical smoke of sound and eating the roasted peanuts.
So damn if I don’t hear that song now and taste roasted peanuts in my mouth and think of school busses.
I remember riding my bike when I was 12 to my father’s house on Long Island. My parents were divorced and I lived with my mom in Queens, about 50 miles away from where my dad lived in Long Island. I would go on bike trips with my best friend to my dad’s house. We’d get a map and map out the route—all on surface streets for the full 50 miles. I think we must’ve been crazy, now that I look back. But I just wanted some adventure.
This was in 1976. Back then, a small AM/FM transistor radio—about 3x4 inches in size with a tiny speaker—was the most common thing people used to carry around music through their life. A mobile little stereo; only this was mono, meaning only one speaker (for those who need clarification).
So this little radio, it was deep blue, was slung on my handlebars as I rode the 50 miles to my dad’s house.
I heard all the great tunes. But one tune sticks out for that whole period of my life, “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates. When I think back about riding my bike through the streets of Long Island, it’s “Rich Girl,” by Hall and Oates.
So whenever I hear that song, even 46 years later, I’m transported back to that time—that magical time riding through the streets of Long Island, 12 years old, full of adventure and energy, groovin’ to the sounds of Hall and Oates.
There’s plenty more musical touchstones that came later.
Another was the first time I got a real long-playing album (LP) for my little plastic stereo.
It was the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. A double album. I got it for a Christmas present the year that movie came out. 1977.
I got a train set as well. So I went into my tiny bedroom in our Queens apartment I shared with my mom, set up the train set and put on that album and I was in heaven.
I had seen the movie, and to now have a double album with all the songs from the movie I could play over and over and over…heaven.
The first song on that album is “Stayin’ Alive.” (And damn if that song didn’t help me get through some crazy adolescent moments.)
The first scene in that movie, Saturday Night Fever, is Travolta strutting through the New York streets eating two slices of pizza stacked one on top of the other. Folded. New York style. Greasy as all hell.
This definitely resonated with me. I was Travolta, strutting through my Jamaica, Queens streets, eating pizza. (Though I will confess, I only ate one slice at a time…)
Hearing that song ignited all the pinball lights in my 13-year-old body and soul.
Up until that point I had only 45 singles—mostly R&B, soul, disco—from all the great 70’s artists: Ohio Players, Parliament, The Spinners, Donna Summer, BT Express…
But to now have a big fat double album with John Travolta on the cover doing his disco move. The classic photo from the movie. It was truly the most amazing moment so far in my life.
This is how I remember those musical touchstones. Times when the sky opened and a hand of melody and sound reached down and grabbed me and danced with me and made life much more magical than just the standard pattern of days in school and homework and crazy parents and living through childhood.
Whatever came my way, I was ready. I just turned on that transistor radio, or dropped the needle down on the black wax and I was gone. Lifted up off the ground. Transported to a world of magic and sound.