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Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's The Music, Man

So I was thinking as I pulled into the parking lot of my local A&P, that I didn’t want to turn off my car just yet because my Ipod was in the middle of one of those songs I must listen to until it ends.  I’m sure you have them -- one of those dagblasted songs that conjure up memories and even more frightening, feelings. I have probably spent a cumulative week or two sitting in cars with the motor running, waiting for a particular song to finish, possibly singing along, dating back to FM Radio days listening to the Gods of WNEW  -- Pete Fornatale, Richard Neer and Scott Muni to name a few.  Not a day went by when I didn’t tune in.  Imagine a programmer that could make that claim today.  I remember finding out that John Lennon had been shot and turning on the station knowing they would fill the airwaves with the sounds of my favorite Beatle.  They were certainly the singular source of my driving music. But now, with my Ipod, I can program my own playlists and collections for my drives. I am the DJ of my life and can create musical interludes to suit both my journey and mood.  I feel so musically empowered.

I had 100's 
My taste is rather eclectic but I suspect anyone who’s lived through the 50+ years I have, would say the same. I don’t want to presume or assert that I am up to date or even have the deepest historical breathe of any particular genre, but I will admit to a Broadway Show tunes weakness when I’m alone and in the mood to sing along.

That’s not to say that you won’t find Mary J Blige, Scissor Sisters, Steve Winwood, The Pretenders, Allan Sherman, Motown and even a whole slew of Folk singers in the mix as well.  There is no logic, no rhyme or reason to my collection. I like what I like and I’ve amassed over 2000 songs on two dozen different playlists I’ve created.  Songs are snowflakes – made from the same stuff but completely different and wonderful.  

One of my favorite writers, Neil Gaiman, has this to say about songs,  "Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn't a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words."

The Most Fun place to Work, ever ! 
I think that’s true about the whole of music. We each are our own soundtracks.  Our music is our history.  I really do enjoy categorizing songs and making playlists that work for me.  I even burn CD’s with a particular cluster of songs that are my momentary favorites.  Generally no one else understands or appreciates all of it, but that’s really fine. I’m programming WPOP Culture Diva – for my own listening pleasure.

I think it would be interesting to list our life’s milestones, our special moments and romances with their attendant sound tracks. Each of us might construct a musical biography, if you will, launching a new genre of literature, the musical memoir. What songs would have to appear in your collection?  

I would have to include Leo Kottke in my college years. I had a boyfriend in college from Indiana who played guitar just like Leo. He grew up on a farm, a very big farm with seven tenant farmer families on the property.  One Christmas break we went to visit his family on this farm. We flew into O’Hare after circling for 3 hours in a horrific snowstorm.  His parents picked us up at the airport and we drove 3 hours south to their farm.  I had never seen such flat, straight, long country roads—smooth snow covered ribbons that seemed endless with names like Rural Route 2. 

I rode in this
The next day we went for a ride on their huge green John Deere tractor with wheels that were taller than I. The thousands of acres of soybeans were buried under three feet of snow. The large panes of glass in the tractor cabin became frost covered as we drove through the fields, listening to an 8 track tape of Leo’s 12 string sounds. Stephen was one of four brothers, all home for the holidays.  His younger brother was in prep school, the oldest brother was a math professor at Purdue and the second brother was a Jazz guitarist. It was like Bonanza the Musical. 

I wanted to do something nice for the family so Stephen took me to the “local” mall – about 45 minutes away—where I purchased about a dozen personalized Santa Hats for the entire family for the traditional Christmas Eve Caroling event. We were a fleet of 5 Cadillacs filled with Carolers, both friends and family, driving from farmhouse to farmhouse singing our hearts out. It was for me, a Jewish girl from New Jersey, as good as a trip to a new country where they happened to speak English. 
It was a clear and star filled evening with the snow reflecting and helping to illuminate the occasional streetlights along the two lane highways.  Everywhere we stopped to perform, wildly enthusiastic neighbors welcomed us. We were in the last car, in the back seat with Stephen’s younger brother.  I was in the middle. The Jazz Guitarist driver brother and his girlfriend, a former Miss Indiana were in front.  We were drinking some Christmas tradition in the car and getting alcoholic hot toddies and cookies along the way.

Somewhere after the fifth stop or so, Jamie, the young one started moaning.  This was not good.  As I turned to tell Stephen about his brother, poor Jamie lost it. Stephen tapped his older brother on the shoulder and muttered, “We gotta stop.”  Greg, the driver, pulled over to the shoulder of the road and both he and Stephen got out of the car, walked over to the other side, opened the door and lifted Jamie out.  One grabbed his arms and one grabbed his legs as they placed him face down in the fresh snow. Without a word, they dragged him across the tundra and wiped him clean. They flipped him over, put him back into his seat, resumed their positions and took off for the next stop without saying a word.  

Jamie mumbled a sheepish, “Thanks” and the Caroling journey continued.  I turned to Stephen and asked “What just happened, it seemed so natural, so spontaneous?”

“Oh yeah, when you grow up on a Farm someone is always getting sick from drinking and you have to figure out how to clean them up quick so you can bring them home.”

Hmm. So now, whenever I hear The Driving of the Year Nail or Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring as I travel through the suburbs of New Jersey, I’m back in Indiana, eating fresh Ham for Christmas after an evening of Christmas Caroling watching two big brothers drag the little one through the snow because the show must go on.  

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