The narrative of my life is imbued with meaningful musical memories.
Some songs have settled so deeply in my mind that I can’t recall a time without them, or how I came to know them. Perhaps heard by the fire at summer camp? Or played on the hand-me-down vintage metallic turntable record player in my childhood bedroom? Or the old-fashioned wooden stereo cabinet set in the library in my childhood home? Their lyrics tell my stories; these revered singer-songwriters from the 70s include Carole King, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell and Jim Croce.
Each song is associated with a particular person, place or milestone, etched in my memory.
“And let us say Amen…”
My soul resonates with traditional Jewish melodies that have survived for generations and contribute significantly to my vibrant heritage. Perhaps the music of the Jewish people is encrypted on my DNA.
“I want to be forever young…”
As in every generation, my adolescent years were tightly interwoven with the pop culture of the times. We danced the night away: “The Hustle”, “The Bump”, “YMCA” and the wacky “The Time Warp”. The tunes we belted out include hits by The Village People, Billy Joel and Elton John. As a trend-seeking teen – singing along to popular movie soundtracks without a care in the world. The spectacular 70s. My all-time favourites include Grease, Saturday Night Fever, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show; I know every word of every song like a true teenaged girl.
“So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind/ Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time/ It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right/ I hope you had the time of your life…”
As an energetic student in high school followed by college, I enjoyed deafening concerts in jam-packed stadiums, late night studying kept awake by lousy caffeine and familiar Top-10 tunes, and acoustic soft rock played in smoky campus pubs. A time of transformation, a time to reflect upon with bittersweet yearning.
Don’t even get me started on those special songs: that first kiss song, Sweet-16 song, wedding song, to name a few classics.
“We’ll have these moments to remember…”
Traveling on planes, trains and buses. Wonderful adventures in foreign countries in the 80s along with my treasured chic Sony Walkman and a few favourite compact cassette tapes including legendary musicians such as Simon and Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor, safely tucked into my worn-out knapsack. Scoring cheap concert tickets to see these classic performers are what musical memories made of.
“I love you, you love me, and we’re a happy family!”
The 90s were busy years; complete with adorable infants, rambunctious toddlers and active school-aged kids. Initially my day was consumed with baby bottles and Barney, the big purple dinosaur. Soon after, I graduated to homework helper and carpool mom, along with a family room and van littered with kiddie sing-along CDs. My musical repertoire expanded with Hebrew day school songs, more than enough sappy Disney themes and British pop phenomenon ‒ Spice Girls hits. Apparently, whatever noteworthy main stream music was released in that decade was entirely lost on me.
“And the seasons they go round and round…”
The years past and became decades and eventually I found myself facilitating music / dance therapy with older adults with a range of moderate and complex care needs. Now, I am giving the priceless gift of music. There is nothing glamorous about this work. Certainly I don’t garner the outrageous revenues enjoyed by rock stars; nor do I wear the extravagant gowns fashioned by divas. Definitely no paparazzi.
“Memory / All alone in the moonlight / I can smile at the old days/ I was beautiful then / I remember/ A time I knew what happiness was / Let the memory live again…”
Yet the music is magical and at times seems almost miraculous. Arthritic joints dance the Twist, stroke survivors swing and sway; aphasiacs sing lyrics, individuals with MS or Parkinson’s tap and clap, those afflicted with dementia connect with music in a myriad of expressive ways. Incredibly, music has tremendous power to unlock forgotten memories. Moments of lucidity are accessed with meaningful musical memories, awakening the body and stimulating the brain.
Often, I see bewildered eyes sparkle and dance, I observe rigid joints do the Hokey Pokey and I commonly hear humming and singing emerge from silenced voices that rarely speak.
With delight, I observe depressed people smile and “Whistle a Happy Tune”. Occasionally, I sense aggressive behavior subdue in response to a sedating melody. At these exceptional transformative moments, I am reminded that music is profoundly personal and yet significantly universal. Definitely, where words fail music speaks; we are linked together in song and dance. Music is the language of the soul, and this is never truer than in healing an impaired body, an agitated mind or a troubled soul.
“If I could save time in a bottle…”
The years pass and become decades. And I wonder, who will sing to me? Who will find the radio station I prefer or the personalized playlist with my favourite tunes? Familiar melodies from the prayer book, Broadway hits, folk songs and acoustic rock.
Music is an awesome medium to indulge our nostalgia.
We all want to connect to our youth, to ignite our passion, to energize our tired bodies, to heal our broken hearts, to calm our harried minds and to set our damaged spirits free. Music is vital to the healthy human condition. Whatever the future brings, I hope the magic of music will always be with me…
This is my musical landscape; what’s yours?