I know, I know… I have issues; obviously, any shrink worth their salt would dispatch a gaggle of white-jacketed thugs to your address to re-home you in a cozy little room with padding on the walls if they heard you speak the title of this essay out loud. Hear me out, though; what if you were talking about a music playlist spanning almost every music genre that would take you well over three days – no sleep – to listen to? Surely, they would leave you be and allow you to get on with your day as you busily click next or skip or replay until you face-planted on your desk in exhaustion. Right?
What has now become a “mission” for me had the most innocent of beginnings. My mother and grandmother raised me, and I grew up in a home “decorated” wall to wall, and ceiling to floor, with music. Sometimes, it was a church hymn or Christmas Carol coming from the piano in the dinette. Sometimes, it was my mother practicing a solo she would be doing from the choir box in church next Sunday, or the two of them singing along with Dean Martin or Ray Price, or even Judy Garland or Patsy Cline, as it emanated from the 33 and 1/3 record player tucked neatly in the corner of the living room. And by the time transistor radios were in every household, you couldn’t get away from the sound of Music coming from somewhere in the house.
Born in the late 50s, having a TV at all was a luxury in quite a few households in the DC suburbs, but once we had ours, a whole new world opened up: Guy Lombardo, Lawrence Welk, and so many others filled my house. And don’t even get me started on the movie musicals such as South Pacific, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Sound of Music, and so on ad nauseam. Hell, to this day – 45 years after I moved out of that house – I can still sing out loud and in key the entire Chock Full O’Nuts advertisement jingle, which, as I think on it, might actually improve my chances of getting my own padded room down at the local nut hatch. And by the way? Advertising Jingles really do work because, yes, I admit it, I still buy that shit to this very day. Go ahead, laugh, I sing that damn song every time I open a new can: You just can’t improve on”better coffee a Millionaire’s money can’t buy,” especially knowing it’s mostly poor people like myself that always bought it.
It is expected of all teenagers that there will be various forms of rebellion against family elders, so sure that they are smarter than the people who raised them, and I was certainly no different. My music Rebellion was to cast aside “old people music” and blast music like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Mountain, Black Oak Arkansas, or any other band that made my parent’s heads explode. And, while it is far too late to apologize for these “musical transgressions”this far along in my adult life, I’m as sure as I can be that the invention of the internet and things like Spotify playlists have taught me many things about how any good Rebellion could be put to better use by adding new things you love to the old stuff you grew up with and were taught to appreciate rather than just casting aside the old things that played pretty important pivotal and developmental roles in the person you grew up to become.
It took decades before I would come to appreciate the joy oldies bring to our aging lives; listening to songs from your youth, even if they were the ones you most quickly rebelled against, come back to you later in life and bring smiles to your face as you reflect on the time in your life it reminds you of. Even songs that remind you of the bad times, listening to them again long after those bad times are behind you, brings the satisfaction of knowing you survived them and can still hum the tune. Understanding that songs are much greater than the lyrics and notes of which they are comprised changed everything for me as it relates to my becoming the music hoarder that I proudly admit that I have become.
In my defense, though, like most humanoids, I just like music; music soothes the stormy soul and elicits expressions of every sort in the range of human emotion. The right song (and proper blood alcohol level) will convince us we can sing as well as Pavarotti or wiggle our asses all over the Dance Floor as if we honestly believed we were Michael Jackson or Elvis. And don’t even get me started on how much better we always think we are in the sack when just the right Barry White song, turned way down low in a candlelit bedroom, brings out our best inner Casanova or Cleopatra.
The beginnings of this obsession can be found in my collecting breakup songs. After my second divorce, living in Texas, where every song on the radio seemed to Lament The repossessed fishing boat, the wife that ran away for another, the dog that died, or the repossessed failed Farm just kept me in dark places I needed to find a way to dig myself out of. I got a Spotify premium account, turned my back on all country music, and built my first serious playlist, which became 24 hours of every manner of Blues I could get my ears on. Shifting gears, I started collecting songs from the good days of my late teens and early twenties, and it wasn’t long before I started going back even further, dredging up the most popular dance song that played when I went to my 7th-grade prom.
Moving back North, eager to start building an Eclectic collection that included a little bit of classical, a little bit of golden oldies, and pretty much anything I could find that I hadn’t heard for years. Not long after that, like a gift from the music gods, I found out about Shazam, and that little gizmo has completely changed my life.
Those who might be unfamiliar with this app should know that it basically allows you to turn it on while something is playing, and within a few seconds, it will recognize Whatever the song might be and, if you wish. You can add it to an existing playlist or create a new one to which you can save that particular song. Once I figured out how to do it, the range of sources on the playlist I keep promoting here on these pages has exploded exponentially. Everything from so-called bumper songs on TV shows and movies to songs playing in the background on television commercials and my looking up, following, and adding the top songs from every band that interests me, “A Writer’s Respite” is now almost 80 hours long and continues to grow.
I have written about this before, and I acknowledge that many writers need complete silence during their creation process, but, given the process I have to follow for Content creation, music playing in my headphones while I dictate into a screen actually steers moods, emotions, and generally inspires me while I’m doing the work. And, if nothing else, now that you’ve read this, you have even more ways to build the craziest, most wacky, diverse playlist you could have ever otherwise imagined and, as I have learned, really can be the best voices in our head.