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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Life According to Music

            For many years, when I'd hear Bobby Vinton's "Blue Velvet", I was taken back to a time when I was thirteen and danced with a girl for the first time.  It was an awkward, thrilling two and a half minutes that seemed longer than it was, but not nearly as long as I wanted it to last.  I don't even remember who the girl was, but I remember that song, which at the time seemed like the most romantic song that was ever written.

             Twenty-some years later, "Blue Velvet" was the song that was played throughout the bizarre David Lynch movie of the same name.  I became a big fan of David Lynch after seeing that movie.  Now another twenty-some more years after seeing that film, when I think of "Blue Velvet", I not only think of my first dance and a bizarre film that I like, but also I have learned that Tony Bennett first released the song in the year I was born.  "Blue Velvet" could almost be the theme song of my life--well maybe I won't go that far.

            What I am saying though is that we grow up with music and certain songs, albums, and artists become like mile-markers in our life journey.  I associate events, places, and people with certain music and my autobiography could very well be a mixtape. 

              Some of my earliest memories find me and my sister sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a small portable phonograph and an assortment of 78 rpm vinyl records listening to and rating the music.  We had our Disney and other children's records, but my real favorites were my parents' records.  Wonderful vocal versions of "Lady of Spain" and "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" I still remember though I have no idea who performed them.  We would excitedly frolic about the room to the strains of Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" and cry out "ewww!" when we heard the mournful flip side, although in actuality I liked the beautiful music very much and just didn't want to let on to my sister that I liked it.

              When my family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the late 50's, my parents had to buy all new furniture since they had previously rented houses that were furnished.  One of the pieces they bought was a new style hi-fi record player that was able to play the new 33 1/3 record albums that were replacing the old 78s. This hi-fi remained part of our household furniture when we moved on to San Diego, California in 1959.  Record albums were now the mainstay of the family music library.

                An eccentric assortment of music could always be found in our home.  My mother's influence was mainly in the more pop oriented sounds of Sinatra, big band music, and Louis Prima and Keely Smith.  My father, on the other hand, would bless us with an array of Sousa marches, circus music, and bullfighting music--he was always looking for music to juggle by.  The sounds of music were often heard throughout the day with anything ranging from "Sing Along With Mitch Miller" to "Cha Cha Cha with the Francis Bay Orchestra".  I liked it all.  I especially began to appreciate the classical music which we also had much of.

             My early teen years were spent in Northern Indiana.  This is when I really began to enjoy the sounds of rock and roll.  In the car and in my bedroom at night I would keep up with the hits on WLS radio.  I began getting my own record albums.  Much like when I was a child, hours were spent sitting on the floor of my bedroom with my small portable record player.  Often my best friend Dan and I would put together car models while listening to the sounds of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass or the Beatles. I was building my own record collection.

            After I moved to East Tennessee in 1966, my music collecting became more serious.  I began to really follow the music scene.  Most of my friends were either involved in music or very interested in it.  I began amassing record albums at a much more rapid rate. I began reading about the music industry and spending time scouring the record racks in the stores.  Music was becoming one of my main interests.  This interest has continued to this day.

           There are songs that I can tell you where I was and what I was doing when I first heard them.   In some cases I can recall where I was when a particular song that I had heard often was playing at some particular moment.  Perhaps a song was played in a movie I had watched or a television show that I had seen and each hearing of the song reminds me of that previous experience.  Certain songs immediately make me think of somebody in my life.  Songs are sometimes like caption labels in a photo album.

           Some of the music today has become so much different than what I listened to when I was younger.  I sometimes wonder if the listeners of rap music or thrash metal or some of the other more raucous styles will still be enjoying that music when they get older.  I listen to most of what I listened to forty years ago and it still sounds good to me.  I enjoy much of the newer music that retains those sensibilities.  Death Cab for Cutie or Snow Patrol or the Eels is good music to my ears because it hasn't transgressed beyond my aural limits of what I consider good taste.  While there is the other music which I think intends to shock and I have nothing but aversion to it.

             As I grow older, I do find myself going back to many of my earlier listening roots.  My appreciation for jazz has deepened.  My knowledge of classical has grown broader.  I can still enjoy a good trite rock and roll tune, but give me the more intricate progressive rock any day.  My music is like my food--I like variety and I like to try new things, but it had better taste good or I'm not eating anymore.

          

24 comments:

  1. You are what you eat Arlee, and you are full of music! (smiles).

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  2. I too asssociate music and songs as distinct markers of the passage of time. What a resonant post, Arlee. Thanks.

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  3. You hit the nail on the head with the "Bookmark" analogy. I'm starting to get to the age where new music sounds whiny and stupid!

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  4. Wow, this took me back, Lee. I, too, sat on the floor of my bedroom, listening to records on a phonograph. Music is the soundtrack of our lives and a song can help me remember things like nothing else. When I sing at retirement homes, Alzheimer patients come alive when certain songs are sung. Thanks for writing about this.
    Karen

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  5. Love it! and love that last line....You made me want to dust off the CD's today and sing while I clean house! I think that is just what I'll do! Thanks!

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  6. Ocean Girl-- music does lift me up. Even sad music takes me to a more reassuring optimistic level of sadness.

    Elisabeth -- Thank you.

    Will-- and some of it sounds downright angry and scary.

    Karen -- I think music is one of our most deeply ingrained feelings--maybe it's actually another one of our senses. It goes beyond just hearing because it taps into something different than just sounds.

    Rae -- whistle while you work! My mother almost always had music playing while she worked around the house.

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  7. Better late than never, my pc have been off colour today.

    I loved your life and music post,I too can remember a certain song a certain occasion,
    Have a nice day.
    Yvonne,

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  8. Wonderful post that I can really relate to Arlee! So many things you wrote struck a cord so to speak, with me!
    I remember listening to WLS when I was growing up in Chicago as a young girl also WCIL.
    My grandmother listened to a wide variety of music on her large stereo phonograph, which opened my mind to all sorts of music.
    Today my tastes are still very eclectic, probably more so than when I was younger.
    Love Di ♥

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  9. rLEE-b ~

    Yesterday you wrote the following:

    --> "you seem to be making the assumption that I'm just going to be listing a bunch of trivial rock and roll. My choices are going to be rooted in many of the genres which I will be omitting"

    Ah-ha! I know what that means!
    It means that rLEE-b's list will probably be including at least one album by "YES" and one by "EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER". And perhaps one by "STEELY DAN" as well.

    That's my prediction. We'll see on Monday how right I wuz.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

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  10. What a great post! It made me feel nostalgic for records, and for the music my parents played when I was a kid.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

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  11. Yvonne-- You do know your music.

    Diane -- I know my tastes have grown much more eclectic. For one thing I thought I used to despise country music, but discovered that I like it just fine.

    StMC--ELP wouldn't even make my top 100. I have several of their CDs and I do like them, but there's a lot that I like better. Yes and Steely Dan are good choices and would make the top 50 for sure, but..... Monday.

    Sandy -- I liked my vinyls, but CDs are so much more convenient. I have added some of the old favorites that I recall my parents having to my CD collection, but some I just can find.

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  12. Bet a few people wondered "What the heck is a 78?"

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  13. As I've gotten older, my music tastes have broadened too. I enjoy a lot of jazz now, some classical too. My mom still has a collection of 78s - mostly classical stuff :)

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  14. I'm the exact same way. I love music and so many childhood memories are tied up in music some way. I just don't know where I would be without it and I always love discovering new artists and falling in love with them. And reminiscing to old favorites is the best.

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  15. Thank you for that analogy! I'm like that too. Except, I'm a heck of a lot more picky with food than with music. I have a wide variety for music. Food... not so much. ;)
    And I like Death Cab for Cutie and Snow Patrol. Or, at least a few of their songs.
    This is going to be hard. I can't think of any whole album that I like. I just- can't. I don't like whole albums. I didn't realize that. Some songs are good and others... they just don't stick. I wish I had more time to think. Back to my project....
    -Wolfie

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  16. Barbara Mandrell sang "my song," She sang I was Country when Country wasn't cool. I laid in a play pen and my mother had WSM Nashville, The Grand Ole Opry or the Lousiana Hayride on the radio. I cut my teeth on orignal recordings of Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Eddie Arnold, Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn, Roy Acuff, and others. I didn't know there was any other kind of music in 1967 when we moved to CA and the kids listened to something called rock and roll.

    I have to admit by 69 I had fallen in love with CCR. I remember when I got my first car, it was a 1972 Cadillac Convertible and I was the only kid with a car. We juse to skip school and drive to the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk. When I was in the car alone the radio was on KEEN, cookin country. But when my friends got in I would push the buttons to a rock station for them.

    Then one day it hit me, they were in my car. From that moment on the button stayed on kickin country. You didn't like it you walked.

    I have expanded somewhat. There are a few 60's rock songs I like, it is more a song or two rather than the band, like Midnight Confessions by the Grass Roots or so. Never got into jazz, opera. But have expaned to blues and the Eagles.

    You should have seen my wife and I at 19 and 20 years old. I would have to play one of her Kook and the gang or something soul music tape then I could play a Buck Owens, then one of her Aretha Franklin then one of my Merle Haggard. What a time that was.

    Iknow what you mean about music. It shapes you and is a part of you. I remember all most every memorable, remarkable, prominent, important, disastrous event in my life with a song.

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  17. Alex -- you're right. 78s, 45s, and 33 1/3's must sound pretty alien to some younger folks.

    Jemi-- I wish I had all my mother's old 78s and my 45s. I still have most of my old vinyl albums, but never listen to them.

    Pal-- I find myself listening to older stuff now, more than keeping up with newer artists. But I do like it when I can connect to something new.

    Wolfie -- your generation probably doesn't think so much about albums like mine did. You probably just download songs onto your iPod or something like that.

    Gregg-- Your last sentence really sums it up for me. I was kind of the opposite of you. My parents did not like and did not listen to country until we moved to Tennessee in 1966. There were a few country 45s that I bought like Statler Bros and Johnny Cash, but they were on mainstream charts. Eventually in the 70s I really started to appreciate country.

    Have you noticed that a lot of the country since the 80's sounds like rock of the 70s?

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  18. Movies and music are book marks of my life! This is kind of how I wanted to do the music challenge!
    I can come up with 15 songs/15 albums is a bit harder to do! Still
    thinking about it though; I may jump in at the last minute! Great post;
    music is milestones of our lives!

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  19. oh no, I didn't mean recent music much just stuff I've never heard. Cause if I haven't heard it, it's new to me! :P

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  20. Ellie -- I hope you will join us-- I want to hear about what you like.

    Pal-- It's funny. I am continually discovering older music that is new to me. I'll hear an artist from the 60s or 70s that I've never really listened to or maybe never even heard of and wonder "how did I ever miss them?" There is so much music out there to be discovered.

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  21. Arlee,
    Left a long post about your blog but it came up with an error.
    Just will say I loved the post and there's nothing like wonderful music to move us along in life.
    Cheers us, educates us, soothes us.
    Music certainly marks my journey in life. From Sam Cooke, Elvis, Roy ORbison, George and Tammy. Kenny G.
    Love all manner of music.
    We writers love words. How could we not love them put to music.
    Best always, Barb

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  22. BW -- Crap! Don't know about that error thing-- sorry. Music has made up most of my life and will carry me to the end.

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  23. Music is like a fine fragrance - it instantly transports all your memories across time.

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  24. Paula-- Yes, so true. So often I will hear a song I haven't heard in years and will be taken back to the time when that song was a part of my life.

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Lee