As I mentioned before, I am not a “music person.” I am enjoying music more and more as I get older, and I am finding more value in it, but I’m still not that person. A friend asked me this week to make a list of ten or fifteen songs that have made me who I am, that I couldn’t live without. There are few songs that I would go crazy if I were deprived of, but there are more than I realized that have shaped and changed me. At the very least, they make up a soundtrack, marking important times and moments in my life. Interestingly, as I started thinking about them, a number are linked to movies that I love. Picking movies that change me or that I couldn’t give up is much harder because I have a much stronger connection to some of them. Go figure that their songs are on my list.
So here is some of my list. This is not concrete and will undoubtedly change over time, if not immediately. These are my songs:
*”Slip Sliding Away,” Paul Simon: My father sang this song to me as a child when he put me to bed. There were others that he sang, others that I listened to on my cassette player, but this is my bedtime song. I know it in no other context. It will always be my dad’s song. The lyrics are so sorrowful, so beautiful. I wonder, looking back, if it was just a song that he loved, or one that epitomized those nights. Was it just another song, or a reminder to savor the warm nights before homework, television, sleepovers and moving out?
*”Faith,” Limp Bizkit: I vividly remember this cover from my junior high days. It was a time when my parents forbid MTV and VH1, when I snuck home with my best friend and watched TRL in my room. It was harsh and slightly vulgar, it was nothing that I had ever listened to before and the first time I really understood music as rebellion.
*”Fix You,” Coldplay: I gave a presentation in college about Jesus healing out biggest, most paralyzing wounds. It was about complete healing and the invitation to be made whole. It was a talk that was a profound learning experience for me and a revelation about God’s relationship with His children. It touched a lot of people and really was an important message. The talk concluded with this song, begging the question of allowing ourselves to be fixed. It was so unexpected and so powerful that, no matter how many times I hear it or in what context, I’m brought back to that night and invitation to know wholeness.
*”We Didn’t Start the Fire,” Billy Joel: The song, in and of itself, is fascinating and full of energy. Why this song really stays with me, and gives me chills, has more to do with seeing it live. The first musical I saw was Movin’ Out, which sparked a love for broadway and musical theater. This song comes near the midpoint of the play, but the theatrics of it were amazing. The lights flashing and the representation of war on stage was like nothing I had seen. It was a visceral example of the power of music, the story it tells.
*”24,” Switchfoot: Without question, this is my favorite band. There are so many of their songs that have touched me, challenged me, opened my eyes, and brought me joy. I choose this one for its simplicity and beauty. While it is not their most famous, it is one of the most personal.
*”Part of Your World,” The Little Mermaid: I am not sure how many times I have watched this film. I cannot even estimate how many times my parents watched me stand on our hearth and sing this at the top of my lungs. I sometimes operate under the dillusion that I can sing. I took voice lessons in junior high school that ended with me refusing to learn piano scales and quitting. This song stands out as one that, as early as I can remember, instilled a love of singing. Now it’s only in my car or shower, but singing brings out something joyful, something alive in me that I love.
“The News,” Jack Johnson: Here is another beloved artist whose songs could fill this entire list. I love his work and could choose any one, but this song sticks with me for a few reasons. Aside from his lullaby voice and beautiful guitar, this song is haunting. The images of death being ignored, of flippant disregard for the tragedy of everyday life are chilling. I have heard the protest songs of the sixties, the music of social change. I do not intend to take anything away from those, but they are too far removed from my time to really hit me hard. This one, a song for my media-saturated generation, makes such a plea for empathy and humanity.
“The Luckiest,” Ben Folds: I first heard this song my freshman year in college. My RA played it for me and I fell in love. It is such a sweet, pure love song. The music is beautiful and the images are unique. While I am a sucker for love songs of almost any kind, this was refreshing. It strayed from clichés and reached to find the words to describe a unique bond. As a writer, I admire it.
*”Time of Your Life,” Green Day: As over-played as this song is come graduation, I will never tire of it. Aside from being background music for the Seinfeld finale, which was and is my favorite show, it marked one of my hardest goodbyes. The night before I left home for college, one my best friends came over to say goodbye. We stood on my front porch talking for a minute and just as he was ready to leave, a car pulled up across the street and opened its door. Blaring from the speaker was this song. It was right out of a movie and made everything a little harder and a little easier. It was meant to be, but it was meant to be special.
Because this is getting to be quite a long process, here are a few current favorites, simply for listening pleasure: “Konstantine,” Something Corporate, “Ungodly Hour,” The Fray, “Hey Soul Sister,” Train, and “Beautiful Mess,” Jason Mraz. Even as I think about these songs, they seem incomplete. There are so many others that I love, that bring up important memories. I realize that a number of them are, as I said, songs tied to movies or other things, not songs standing on their own. I don’t really think that lessens their importance. I also realize that this list is very heavy on male artists. This is a relatively recent development, and it does not mean that there aren’t songs by women that are important to me or that are enjoyable. It just means that right now, in this moment, these are my list. When I wake up tomorrow, I’m sure it will have changed. It’s an interesting challenge, though, to make your own list. It may prove that we’re all more “music people” than we may think.
“All deep things are song. It seems somehow the very central essence of us, song; as if all the rest were but wrappages and hulls!” –Thomas Carlyle