These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…I Mean Songs
The other day my son asked me, “What’s your favorite song, Mom?” I was totally stumped. In all honesty, I have far too many favorites to choose just one. Still -- at that moment -- I couldn’t come up with a single title. I went completely blank. Too much pressure, I suppose.
Sunday night I started to think about it again. I was watching the Academy Awards, and several actors were asked during an off-air interview, “What makes a great movie?” For many of them, it was difficult to pin down the exact answer. Is the experience of a movie more about stimulating our emotions, our intellect, or both? Is it the thrill of discovery or a new-found knowledge that draws us into a film, or perhaps the pull of a character we relate to completely the second he or she appears on the screen?
With music, the response is similar, isn’t it? When asked why you like a song, you might simply say it’s because it makes you happy. Does there have to be an in-depth, intellectual explanation for the smile on your face? Not necessarily. Years ago, a fellow musician told me that a good song should move at least one of the following four body parts: your brain, your heart, your hips or your feet. Makes sense to me.
Music has always moved me. From the time I could walk, there was always a song in my head. Maybe it was something I picked up on the radio or from one of my father’s albums, or a jingle from a commercial. Music was how I related to and interpreted everything around me. It spoke to me – like an imaginary friend, going everywhere I would go – and I always responded.
At any given moment, melodies would just come bursting out -- especially if we were riding in the car. It drove my parents crazy – they preferred the radio and air conditioning -- but once I got started, I couldn’t stop. At least not until the car stopped. I’d roll the car window down and lean my head out just enough to catch the breeze. The sound of the tires speeding along the pavement served as my rhythm, my beat. The second I felt the wind whirling through my hair and whipping across my face -- my head, my heart, and the whole car was filled with song. “Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head, and just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed….”
As far as I was concerned, that’s how everyone felt about music. Imagine my shock when, riding along as a guest, I realized that a good friend’s family NEVER sang in the car. Nor did they listen to the radio! I vividly remember feeling terribly sad for them -- for the silence in which they lived. How empty that car had seemed to me. At the age of six, I discovered – perhaps for the first time – maybe we didn’t all feel things the same way after all.
A close second to singing in the car was bellowing out duets on the swing set when I was seven with my best friend Sharon. Now that really got the pipes going. We’d swing higher and higher, our voices rising in volume as our feet reached closer and closer to the sky. We were so loud that our neighbor, Mrs. Wharton, could hear us in her kitchen over the rumbling of her old air-conditioning unit. “Edelweiss, Edelweiss, every morning you greet me…” “You are sixteen goin’ on seventeen…” “The hills are alive with the sound of music…ah, ah, ah, ah…”
The sound of running water also always inspired a song in me. Oddly enough, so did the noise of a vacuum. How ironic that one of the worst sounds on the planet could bring forth something as pleasing as a song…Which reminds me of the first time I heard Bob Dylan sing “Blowin’ in the Wind.” I was 12 or 13, and I was vacuuming our living-room rug with the radio blaring full-blast. I knew Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of the song, but had only “heard” about the greatness of Dylan. My first reaction to his singing was utter disbelief. “THAT is Bob Dylan?” I turned off the vacuum to be sure the announcer wasn’t joking. While I know that I will never acquire a taste for vacuuming – with or without music -- I have long since come to appreciate the genesis of Dylan. “Don’t think twice, it’s all right...”
I still can’t narrow down my list of favorites to just one or two or even 12 songs, but I can tell you this: whatever they are, I’m still singing them in the car… “Baby, we were born to run…” And when I’m vacuuming: “I feel the earth move under my feet…” And – for goodness sakes -- who doesn’t sing in the shower?! “Well, I said I, I, I, I, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, well, I am the rain king…yeah!”
And whatever I’m singing, I know it’s moving my heart: “The long and winding road..." My head: “Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery…" My hips: “We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor…" Or my feet: “Go, go, Johnny, go!”