Memories & Songs

Are significant songs classics? Are only classic songs significant? What makes a piece of music important and worthy of archiving?  After all, the world is full of beautiful cultures, all with unique traditions, rituals, folklore, stories and songs. Music and songs can be defining characteristics of a cultural group, perhaps even of your heritage, your ancestors.

Well, here I am to admit that I have absolutely zero ounces of musical ability or talent in my blood. I played the flute in fifth grade, and that was it for instruments. Instead, I took chorus throughout middle school and early high school. I knew I wasn’t a good singer; but, my goodness, I worked hard in chorus class. In high school I received the “Most Improved” recognition award at the end of the year. You probably didn’t need or care to know that about me, but my point is that I am not an expert on music and will not pretend to be.

However, I love a good song and I think it is important to talk about music and preservation. Have you ever considered the songs that would play in the background of a movie about your life? Ten or 20 or 50 years from now, will you remember your favorite songs and what you listened to in the car or while hanging around the house or hosting dinner parties?  Sure, you’ll remember your prom song (maybe) or your wedding song and those few favorites, but what about the others?

The soundtrack of our lives would all be different, but just like old photographs, doesn’t a familiar favorite make you smile and recall a time in your life?  I may not know songs dear to my ancestors from Ireland or Scotland, sadly, but the songs I know keep me grounded to my own story, one that I’d like to remember.

Songs trigger sweet memories, whether specific to a particular moment or day or era. They can make us say, I haven’t heard this song in ages or I used to love this song or I’d listen to this song when…” 

Music can serve as a time capsule and a time warp, nostalgia included. Maybe that song that you loved in high school or the one from the day you moved into your first apartment means nothing to anyone but you. It is still significant and it should be a part of your self-made life soundtrack. They can be popular, unknown, brilliant, terrible, happy, sad; there are no rules for why songs are meaningful to us.

The most important songs that would appear in my list take me back to dancing in the living with my sisters, Dad blasting music from the garage as the entire family worked in the yard, celebrating holidays and the first mixed CD from Vinny. A few remind me of high school homecoming, others recall college track meets and late summer night writing marathons. The summer I lived in Omaha, Nebraska and had my first car (Derby) has many songs to its memory. My list goes on and on, as yours does, I’m sure.

And if music can be such a powerful trigger for memories, wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep a record of them? Calendars, photographs and journal entries probably skip over the music playing in the background as you write and work. Just as we talk about the sounds and smells of historic sites, the background sounds to your life are also worth noting and remembering.

So, write down the names of these songs and start your own playlist. Share it with your children and your grandchildren. I would love to know what my grandparents listened to as they studied, got ready for a date, traveled across the country, took care of their children, cleaned the house or as they simply relaxed. Of course, I could guess based on the decades, but that’s too impersonal and potentially inaccurate. I’d rather know specific songs and their memories.

What do you think? How important is music in your life?

What am I listening to as I write Preservation in Pink? Tonight it’s country music. (I love it.)

7 thoughts on “Memories & Songs

  1. erinosh7 says:

    Great post Kate. I think you are absolutely correct in suggesting that music can take us back to remembering many different memories whether they are good or bad.
    I don’t know about you but whenever I listen to Billy Joel, or Elton John for that matter, I remember driving to Point Lookout with the whole family to visit Grandma Jeane. I was always excited to get to go to the beach. And if we listened to it on the way home, late at night leaving Grandma’s I always would fall asleep listening to it. Those were great memories!

  2. erinosh7 says:

    Also when I hear on the road again by Willie Nelson I always think of our road trips to Florida, and Mom always had to play that song. I wasn’t a fan then, but I like it now!

  3. Paula Sagerman says:

    Music is very important to me and defines different periods of my life. I still have cassettes that I made in 8th grade, and I love hearing old songs that remind me of high school or college. Music also helped my partner and I bond; we have similar tastes (okay, he doesn’t like disco) and like to see live bands together. He is also a musician himself and amuses me with songs that he makes up as he goes along.

  4. ealabord says:

    Awesome post! Music is a huge part of my life; I am actually writing my thesis on heritage music trails. Some of the first music I remember is old time country that I heard my grandparents- Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn being my favorites. Having pretty hip parents from the 60s and 70s, my fiance and I have gradually inherited most of our parents’ vinyl collection, and enjoy throwing on a record at the end of a busy day.

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