Life’s Greatest Hits

“Jessica liked life but if she could change anything about hers, she would set it all to music.”–ABC Television Series “Soap”

Life may not be set to music the way Jessica would have liked, but we really do have our own soundtracks. Throughout our individual journeys, all kinds of music accompany us and become a part of the fabric of our memories. How much thought have you given to your soundtrack?

What, for example, is the first song you remember? Is it a novelty song like Cement Mixer or Ragg Mopp that the family sang in the car? Or is it a lullaby that Grandpa crooned, albeit slightly off-key? For those lucky enough to have a family playroom with a phonograph, childhoods were filled with musical ABC’s, ragtime cowboys and teddy bears’ picnics. Kids in the 1960s sang along with Mitch Miller and the Gang, rose early for the Beatles cartoon show and waited breathlessly for the Monkees every week, which segued neatly into an undying love for the Partridge Family in the following decade (much to the chagrin of our parents, who hadn’t cared for any of them–except maybe Mitch Miller). Getting your own radio–with an earphone!–meant it was possible to daydream along to the music of your own liking, surfing along with the Beach Boys  or Dancing in the Moonlight with King Harvest. Think back on the songs from those early years: the hymns, Christmas carols, campfire songs from Scouts. Is it possible, really, to hear a song from your last summer in high school and not find yourself swept away by a wave of memory?

Music I heard with you was more than music, the poet said; when we hear familiar melodies we cannot help but be transported to other places, other times, people we knew. Happiness and heartbreak are all intertwined with song. Wartime tunes like Sentimental Journey, I’ll Walk Alone, and I’m Getting Tired So I Can Sleep nourished many a hungry heart and lonely dream. Who among us familiar with Gloria Gaynor’s anthem I Will Survive  has not experienced a time in life when that song resonated to our very core? And lots of ladies named Lorraine remember Daddy or Grandpa serenading them–ably assisted by Nat King Cole, of course.

The songs people choose for memorials and funerals are part and parcel of these personal soundtracks, the musical associations that our families have with us. Many people go with traditional hymns–Amazing Grace, Ave Maria, How Great Thou Art– but we hear many other wonderful songs as well.  Often we hear Frank Sinatra belting out My Way in tribute to the family patriarch. The gentle lilt of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole singing Over the Rainbow wafts through our halls as families say goodbye. “Mom and Dad’s Song” has many, many versions and we are privileged to hear them; we are drawn into many love stories that have stood the test of time.

Music has steeled our resolve, brought us joy, comforted us. So give some thought to your personal soundtrack. And remember, although the song may have ended,  the melody lingers on.

~~Mary Gibbons

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