Author Guest Blog: The Songs That Inspire
A Timeline in Song
Years ago, I watched a TV show called Cold Case. I liked the show, not just because the male lead was cute as a button and not because it took place in Philadelphia and surrounding areas, which reminded me of my childhood, but because it had great music on each episode. That show used music to highlight a time period during flashbacks when the cold case’s crime was committed. One of the best episodes was the Nirvana one. I have no idea what the actual cold case was about because for me, the music was the entire reason for the episode.
While I was in a graduate program a few years ago, I had to join a local Toastmaster’s Club. I loathe public speaking. Actually, there isn’t a strong enough word to describe how much I hate it. However, one of the requirements to be able to graduate from the program was to do an “icebreaker” speech. Traditionally, this speech is supposed to be something about your life.
Music is so much of a part of my internal timeline, it defines gaps and smells periods and moods and specific pinpointed memories for me. So, for that “icebreaker” speech, I decided to do a short “Timeline in Song.” These are not all of the songs representative in my life’s timeline, but ten seems like a nice round number. Each song represents a time period and/or a specific memory tied to my past.
- “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce
I grew up in a working class blue collar family in a New Jersey Steel Mill town. My dad loved Jim Croce. This song takes me to a very young age, probably around six or seven years old, sitting on the floor of the red 1970 Duster named “Bessy” which was driven by my mother. There was a hole in the floor of the car. My brother and I would watch the road go underneath it. It was a time where we didn’t wear seatbelts, there were no child seats, no hovering, and innocence lasted much longer.
- “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield
I was an eleven-year-old girl, hanging out in my best friend Danielle’s bedroom, sitting on the wood floor and listening to this song on a Forty-five record. It was summertime and we had nothing to do. She had wood floors and bunk beds in her room because she had to share it with her older sister.
- “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson
I was fourteen-years-old and at Lisa Dickinson’s boys’ and girls’ birthday party in her basement. It was my first co-ed birthday party, with the exception of when I was very small and most of my friends were boys. This song played the whole time, even more than the other Thriller songs. We played Spin the Bottle and I was so happy that the bottle never landed on me. It was a sleepover for the girls, and I remember late at night, boys were still there and everyone was slow dancing to this song.
- “Paradise City” by Guns and Roses
I was eighteen years old. During the summer in between high school and college, I worked for an auto parts store delivering auto parts to garages. The boss’ daughter would come to the shop every day and she was wild and crazy. We were the same age. She loved Axl Rose, and I remember her talking about the meaning of his different tattoos. I liked Guns and Roses but did not have the “hots” for Axl Rose like other girls. I would listen to her go on and on about him, her stories about trying to follow the band, and all of her other crazy exploits.
- “Come as You Are” by Nirvana
I was living in Lynchburg, Virginia where I went to college. In my memory, I am driving through a Hardees’ late at night getting myself a 75 cent chocolate and vanilla swirl cone. It was the only indulgence I could afford in those years, and every time I hear this song, I am scraping for three quarters in my little 1982 Datsun 200SX.
- “Gotta Be” by Des’ree
It is 1995, and I am driving down Buffalo Soldier Trail outside Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I am a young Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, and I am looking to my right at the Huachuca Mountains as the sun is coming up, headed back to my apartment after physical training on the Post in the early morning.
- “Mmmmm Bop” by Hansen
I am stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, driving a white Dodge Neon. My baby girl Allison (also known as “Pookie” to this day) is strapped in a blue multicolored polka dot rear facing car seat, and my three-year-old daughter Abby is in her car seat singing along to this song at the top of her lungs. We are driving home off the Post after picking them up from their babysitter’s house. It is dusk.
- “Born to Fly” by Sarah Evans
My daughter Abby, who does sing and play guitar, is around seven years old and signing this song at the Apex, North Carolina Fourth of July Street Fair. She is holding the karaoke microphone, and a guy dressed up like Goober Pyle walks up while she is singing. He starts dancing around. A lot of people were stopping and staring because she was such a tiny little girl with such a big voice.
- “Amazing” by Bruno Mars
I am standing in my bedroom in my current home in 2009. Pookie has her little pink cell phone, a small flip phone she got for Christmas one year. She hands the phone to me so I can hear Zafer, a small curly headed mop top boy in her class, who has professed his love for her by leaving this song on her voicemail. She saved it and it is probably still on this phone. In hindsight, due to his tragic death at nineteen years old in April 2016, to have that voicemail on that phone would be a God send.
- “Riding Solo” by Jason Derulo
Pookie and I are driving up Route 421 to go to the western part of the state of North Carolina – either Greensboro or much further west – for soccer tournaments and matches. She is in the passenger side wearing her uniform, pulling her socks on, signing this song as loudly as she can. When it gets to the long high falsetto part where he drags it out, she goes all out on it, looking up to the car ceiling, eyes shut.