Like most people who turn fifty, my mind is full of memories. And a lot of mine are connected with music. From the time I was very small, my mother allowed me to play with her forty-five records. For you young folk, those were small vinyl disks which revolved at forty-five revolutions per minute. You played them on a thing called a “record player”.
Yeah. I know. Old school. My earliest memory involving music is from when I was about five years old, sitting on the floor in our first house, going through the records and picking out the ones with funny art on their labels. So the first song I remember playing is Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis, as my mother had a lot of Sun Records music. There logo was a Sun with a smiley face. Jerry Lee was followed by Johnny Cash and then the man, Elvis Presley.
Skip ahead a few years for the next musical memory. My family used to gather at my maternal grandmothers on Saturday nights. The men would play cards while the women and kids would play music. My grandmother Nanny loved to play songs like My Ding-a-Ling by Chuck Berry. She couldn’t wait for me to hear the song and we laughed every time she played it.
A few years later, I lay on the floor of my paternal grandmothers living room, watching the flickering blue flames of the gas heater as I tried to fall asleep listening to music on an old clock radio. My brother and I were there as my mom stayed with Nanny as she slowly died from an inoperable brain tumor. I would wait to hear the song Wildfire by Michael Murphy, the sad tale of the girl dying in a Nebraska snow storm fitting my mood.
A happy moment from the same year was at the local roller skating rink, showing off my slick slide and glides to Fame by David Bowie. My brother and I would go up and skate the night away, free from parents, enjoying the brief illusion of freedom.
I can remember standing in front of the mirror in our family room, in sixth grade, singing I Want You, I Need You, I Love You by Elvis, pretending I was singing to a girl I desperately wanted as my girlfriend. I got my wish and we went steady for two weeks, the first week of which she missed school because she was ill. She broke my heart riding in the back of the bus home from a ballgame with a guy other than me. Oh, the heartbreak.
My first date ever took place in October of 1977. My mother drove my date and I to the dance and I was terrified. I can still remember the song Slow Dancing by Johnny Rivers coming on and being scared to death as we walked hand in hand onto the dance floor. Turns out slow dancing with a girl is actually fun.
Zip forward four years to my senior prom. I had a week that if it were to be used on a teen soap opera people would tell you it would be too far fetched. My girlfriend ended our relationship a few days before the dance, yet we still went to prom together. When Kool and the Gang’s Celebration came blasting from the speakers, the crowd went wild. I didn’t. Celebrating was far from my mind.
This year my wife and I celebrate 25 years of marriage. Our couple dance, The Greatest Love of All by George Benson, is not a classic wedding dance song, but it worked for us. In the years since, the other song with the most importance is At Last by Etta James, which I used to make a baby DVD when our twins were born. It took ten years and a lot of doctors to get them here and the song said everything we’d been feeling.
Music plays an important part of my life, and now, for my Twins, as the girls love their music. I hope they have a song that when they are older, they will look back and think of it as their “daddy” song. I can’t imagine my life without music. If you see me, if I’m not singing or whistling out loud, I am in my head. Let the music roll!