When I was in second grade, I was cast as the cow in the Christmas (yes, Christmas ‘cause I went to Catholic school which I’m told explains so freaking much) concert. I didn’t want to be the cow because…COW, and talked my way into the prized part of sheep. Why it was prized I don’t know; I just wanted it.
This was my first on-stage performance and as nervous as I might have been, my mother was much worse off. I didn’t learn this till later, but before my turn came, mom sunk down into her seat worried about how I’d do. This wasn’t a lack of faith; it was the typical I-don’t-want-my-child-to-fail-and-hate-himself thing all parents do. Once I opened my mouth, though, everything changed; she sat up straight, looked around smiling and was all “that’s my kid” to even the most uninterested folk. This was the start of a love affair with music that has defined so much of who I am.
Not all my musical memories are as nice. In high school I had myself a solo during the spring concert and wouldn’t ya know it, I forgot the first two lines of the second verse. In front of an auditorium full of parents, friends, teachers, strangers. Mortifying.
I recovered and, after giving every member of the school chorus the death stare, got my groove back and belted the remainder of the song so loudly the little old ladies in the front row jumped. And possibly pooped their underoos. A disappointing moment but not enough to stop me. Hell, not even Simon saying “go home” was enough to stop me.
But music and memories go beyond performing; the soundtrack to my life is long and varied and always growing. Nine Inch Nail’s Closer brings me back to one particularly rocky yet passionate affair that ended as spectacularly as it began; TLC’s I Miss You So Much drags me into the heartbreak of that first love/obsession I can’t forget no matter how hard I try (and trust me I’d like to); Evanescence’s Call Me When You’re Sober feels like Amy Lee drilled into my head and sang exactly what I was feeling during and after one ill-fated attempt at a relationship with someone way too cute for me to be able to acknowledge all the issues that stood between us.
Music has a way of creeping into our brains and binding itself to our DNA. It’s why movies, shows and video games have scores; mute Insidious (or most any horror film, really) and you’ll see how much less creepy it is without those shrieking pipes and eerie tones. Music can set the mood in ways visual cues cannot. It can also send us back to the past by tugging on those nostalgic memories without a conscious realizing. Ever hear a song and suddenly smile? Or pout? Or have the need to hold a binder in front of your crotch? You can thank music’s power for that.
I’ve been having a lot of flashback moments as I’ve been reclaiming control over my vocal cords. When I began the extensive practicing to undo as much of the damage from last year’s illness as possible, I soon came to the conclusion that the logical way was to start at the beginning – which, FYI, was the name of the song where I forgot those two lines – and looked to my childhood for the songs to sing.
Michael Bolton, most notably How Am I Supposed to Live Without You, When I’m Back on My Feet Again and Go the Distance have become staples of my rehearsal time. And, because music is music, I’ve been rather nostalgic. I listened to these songs constantly when I was little (mom loved him and his mullet) and singing them again has brought back a lot of memories and emotions that little me experienced during Michael’s height of popularity in my household. It’s a nice feeling, one that reminds me of the innocence of childhood and the never-ending hope of someone who doesn’t know any better. I’ve been relying on that to get me through the rough nights where my voice just doesn’t want to play along.
Sometimes delving into history can be painful – I haven’t listened to When a Man Loves a Woman since high school because the line “he’d turn his back on his best friend if he put her down” (the whole song, even) encapsulates one of the saddest endings to a best-friendship I’ve ever experienced – but it can also be a source of strength. As we grow, we shed things; some are forgotten, but others determined unnecessary for life’s journey or for whatever reason considered weak. We move forward into what society deems worthy and call what’s cast off as childish.
But these past few months have shown me, yet again, how meaningless society’s rules can be. We may believe we have left things behind but we actually carry them with us; they helped form who we are and are never really gone. Listen to your wedding song and tell me you don’t feel it. Listen to that song that played your first time and try to claim those memories, fond or otherwise, don’t come back.
Music has power over us. It can bring us both joy and misery but that’s what it means to have emotions. On your lowest days, Bonnie Raitt’s Poppa Come Quick can put a spring in your step while on your highest her I Can’t Make You Love Me can curse you with recollections of the one that got away (and Whitney Houston’s On My Own can remind you why it’s a good thing they did).
Every memory I have is connected to a song; whether it played while the memory was made or just brings it to the surface, there’s meaning there. Some are good, some are bad and some are naughty but all have a special place deep within and when the right song comes on the radio, they all come out to play.
I’ll be back next month with a new BroTalk so if you’ve got questions send ’em my way. Unless Kara tries convincing me to go along with the next theme. She does that sometimes.
Featured image courtesy of Pixabay