Music and Memories

Last night, while gazing up at a sky full of stars, the Milky Way clearly visible, I had the opportunity to witness the last burning glow of a few small meteorites as they blazed their way through the earth’s atmosphere. There were not a lot of them, but the half dozen I watched burn out seemed to bring to mind a time when life was much simpler. That thought led to all sorts of ideas rolling around in my mind, but the one that stood out among all the others was the idea that certain of our senses bring to mind memories of past times, both good and not-so good.

The first memory that jumped up and slapped me was a night long ago when I was much younger—a night when, as a child growing up in rural America, I found myself laying in our backyard among the grasses and flowers of summer, allergies not withstanding, and staring up at a star studded sky. I vividly remember the first of three “shooting stars” I saw that night. I don’t know why that memory sticks in my mind, but it does. And, after all these years, it came blazing back across the weathered synapses of my aged, and underworked, mind. With it, hanging on for dear life, was the idea that memories, both good and bad, are what keeps us smiling in the face adversity.

We have all heard, and experienced, how our sense of smell takes us back to a younger time in our life. I am taken back to my grandmother’s kitchen as I remember the smell of hot apple pie, taken fresh from the oven and set out to cool. Or, as I travel down the road through areas of this country, how the smell of a dairy transports me back to those mornings when my cousin and I, rousted from a deep sleep, set out to feed the cows as my grandfather and uncle milked them.

Sawdust has me instantly thinking of my grandfather’s shop. He was a carpenter and the smell of fresh cut wood permeated the air around his entire being, following him ever through life, even after he hung up his hammer. Then there’s the smell of eucalyptus, pine trees, leather, fresh mown lawn, and so many more, each bringing forth memories of a past long gone.

But, what I want to share with you today is how sound elicits memories from the past. Maybe it’s the tolling of a church bell, the deep bass of a foghorn, or the simple song on Sunday morning sung by a church choir. For me, there are a multitude of sounds that transport me back in time: the roar of a diesel engine powering a truck rolling down our nation’s highways, the screech of a seagull flying low over the beach as the waves crash to shore, the call of a coyote in the early morning hours. There are so many different sounds that take me back in time, the most dramatic of which is music. For me, music makes the world go round.

The music I want to talk about is music of song. These songs are ones that you might hear at a live concert, on the radio or tv, or maybe simply coming through the speakers of your stereo. These songs might bring back sweet memories, or they might bring you to tears, both happy and sad. They could put a smile on your face, or take you deep into a melancholiac mood. Where ever it may transport you, music is the vehicle of the day.

I want to share with you four songs that have much in common for me. They each address a different time in my life, bringing a simple smile to my morning as I remember times in my past that mean so much to me. If you enjoy song as much as I do, then you, too, will have those tunes that jumpstart your memories. Sometimes you will purposely listen to these songs, while other times they will take you by surprise as they intrude upon your day.

So, without further adieu I bring to you the four tunes that … well, I’ll let you guess at how they are connected for me. For you, they probably mean nothing, but to me three of these tunes bring to mind happy times, while the fourth elicits hope for a bright future. Be assured that they all have a common theme for me, even though they were performed at much different times in history.

Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton

Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot

Shameless by Garth Brooks

Let It Be Me by Ray LaMontagne

What songs do it for you?