Music plays such a major role in many cultures: religion, social recognition, teaching and entertainment. The soundtrack to a play or movie leads the story. It sets the tempo and brings you through the low points and to the climax; it fills space and expands on memorable circumstances. The soundtrack to someone’s life should do the same things. Trying to pick a life playlist would be nearly impossible. So I will try narrowing it down to five songs for a soundtrack to my life thus far. It is vicious and painful. It causes memories to flood back, feelings to resurface and thoughts to drift with the sounds.
Early memories of music are surrounded with love and thoughts of my mom and dad. One of the first songs I can remember is “Desperado” by the Eagles. As the melody starts in my head, I can hear my dad telling my sister and me it’s time for bed as he tucks us in. He sits with us and sings “Desperado” while trying to tempt up to sleep. The soothing melody always reminds me of my dad’s soft and imperfect voice as he sings it to us. I would strain to stay awake just so that he would keep singing. But as his voice would turn to a whisper and then into a humming of the melody only I would lose the battle and drift off into a pure and precious sleep. I have caught myself humming this song when I am scared and it comforts me when I am alone. Any time I have rocked a small child to sleep this is the only song I can think of to sing. Like magic, it works every time to calm, soothe and silence them.
The next song thrusts me back in time when my grandma was still alive and we would spend hours on end watching old movies. The age would fall from her as she tapped her feet to the songs that came from the small television screen. One of my favorites still today is “Good Morning” by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynold and Donald O’Connor. I would spin around the living room trying to keep up with the dancers in the movie while singing the song off pitch as my grandma laughed at me. I can’t hear the song without hearing her sweet laughter drifting over it. Later in life I still keep this song alive as I jump on my daughter’s bed belting out the tune to her as I try to wake her up: “good morning, good morning, sun beams will soon smile through good morning, good morning to you, and you, and you, and you!”
I fast forward in my life to a time when rock was being reborn and rebellious. “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses takes me back to an unlikely place. To an unlikely couple dancing on top of a boat floating down the Thames River in London. Will was my first love and, like many first loves; it was steeped in drama and teenage angst. I watched him longingly as the boat began to dock and I felt the magic slipping away. At the last moment he came over to me and asked me to dance. We rushed to top of the boat where music was still pouring into the night and he held me tightly as we danced to “November Rain.” Not enough years later, with tears pouring from my eyes, I got back into my car after visiting his grave for the first time. I cranked my car and the first notes hit my soul. “November Rain” was playing on the radio. Tears rushed out of me like they were trying to escape my breaking heart, but I smiled while Axle Rose crooned to me. For a brief moment I could feel Wills arms around me again.
The soundtrack to my life jumps all over musical genres, spans times and even continents. My heart loves India, the place, the people and the music. “Jai Ho” by A.R. Rahnam fills me with the love of a distant land. The melody and the music, the high pitched voices mingling with the low full music, send me into a whirlwind of emotion and joy. I can’t help but dance when I hear it come on. The Hindi language that is so foreign to my ears seems to speak directly to my heart, not needing a translator to embody the love and pleasure that India has to offer me.
My family knows how important music is to me and this includes picking out music that will be played at my funeral. I see it as my last gift to all those I love and who have loved me. The last song I want played at my funeral is “Always Something There to Remind Me” performed by Butch Walker. I only hope that the lyrics will be able to wash over those in attendance and remind them that I will always be with them. All they have to do is look around or turn on the radio and there will be things there to remind them of me. I’m sure I will be there somewhere watching them and singing along, “everything I see reminds me of just how it used to be. There is always something here to remind me, always something there to remind me.”
Songs mean many things, the words or even just the music evoking a strong emotion – from the first note you hear, when you get chills from a memory. Then the words flood your brain and you are transported back to a time when that song meant everything. The soundtrack to my life is constantly growing and being added to. Songs are added that have deep meaning, fun interludes, timeless classics, powerful ballads and just plain silly lyrics that get caught in my head. Music allows memories that have been pushed aside for current grocery lists and schedules to bubble their way back to the surface and transport me to a time or a feeling. It may only be for that three minutes while the melody plays and the guitar solos wale, but those few precious minutes are welcome and worthy until the next song from the soundtrack of my life is added to the playlist.