The music I heard shaped me and how I remember the moments of life.
At first I thought I would create a playlist of my favorite songs. But as I thought about all of my favorites, it occurred to me that my list would only reflect the music I currently listen to.
What about the music I loved growing up? Or the music that was really important or popular during the most memorable moments or circumstances of life?
Our taste in music can change over time, and for me, that’s certainly been the case. So I decided to create a list of memories. These are the songs that I remember the most — as much as possible. I admit there are probably dozens more, and I had a tough time picking and choosing.
Most of the songs here have memories attached to them. A person. An event. Or a phase in my life.
The Christmas Song
For example, Celebration by Kool and the Gang was the first music I chose for myself. I remember hearing it somewhere on the radio, and I really wanted to buy it. I walked into a record store in the mall to find it. I was incredibly nervous because I couldn’t find it and realized I needed help. I was terrified of asking for help, so the fact that I did was a big deal. I really wanted that song. I walked out of the store with that single on a cassette tape, and I played it on my boombox non stop for weeks.
Later, when I introduced the song to my daughter, she kept calling it the Christmas Song. Christmas is a celebration, right? To this day, I laugh and think about how it’s the Christmas Song.
The Right of Passage
My freshman roommate was a huge Beastie Boys fan and I fell in love with all of their albums, especially Paul’s Boutique. I danced in my dorm room to Shake Your Rump. Later, on a road trip to Nuevo Laredo, one of my friends had a mix of many different versions of So What’Cha Want and we listened to that mix for hours on end.
The End of the World
I left college as the world braced itself for Y2K. It seemed like everyone rediscovered Prince’s 1999. I worked at a TV station on New Year’s Eve for Y2K. The world worried that the entire planet would stop and descend into chaos. I rang in the year 2000 at work, but it was much ado about nothing. The biggest news event that night was some dude who decided to drive his tank down a street in Houston.
The Trash Fire
Years later, my husband and I saw Cake perform at an outside venue on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville. In the middle of the performance, a giant 12-alarm fire broke out at the trash facility just down the river. A huge plume of smoke floated over the stage and you could see flames in the distance. Cake kept on performing and it was a surreal moment.
When We Had Kids
The artists I listened to when I was young changed and matured just like I did. Both Medeski, Martin and Wood and They Might be Giants released children’s albums. I sang these new songs with my kids over and over again. It felt like we went through big life changes together.
I didn’t realize until I made this list how much music is attached to the act of driving. For me, driving is a time to think or connect with my kids. And music is a big part of that. Songs are attached to moments or people or events. Sometimes a song will flood my head with memories that are so complex and rich that I can’t possibly explain why it’s meaningful.
I included songs I remember playing at my wedding, from artists I saw at shows with my husband, and those I listened to on repeat with my children in the car. Now, the music I listen to is just as influenced by my kids as what I discover. My favorite artists include Lizzo and Galactic, but I also listen to Lady Gaga and Billie Eilish — just two of the artists my children love.
So I hope you will enjoy this lengthy playlist that is all memories for me. And maybe you will consider what memories songs bring back for you, too.