Recently I was listening to the radio (KKNX Radio 840 of course) when a familiar song was being played. Just hearing that music brought back a specific memory from my past. I’m sure that it has happened to you also. Maybe you are not really paying attention to the song, but suddenly a particular memory is stirred up reminding you of what you were doing or feeling when you heard it years ago.
Let’s go on a brief journey through some of the memories in my life that can be triggered by simply hearing a particular song. To make this as simple as possible I’ll move through time in chronological order. The music videos and audio tracks are all via YouTube.
One of the first songs that brings back old memories is a Christmas song that was released in 1947. I was born in 1946 so my first memory of this song is around Christmas time in the mid 1950s. The song is “Here Comes Santa Claus” written by Oakley Haldeman and sung by the famous cowboy movie and TV star and singer Gene Autry. I can still see myself sitting by the Christmas tree listening to the song in anticipation of Santa’s arrival at my house.
We’ll move forward quite a bit to the summer of 1961. I went with my parents back to Uniontown, Pennsylvania to visit with family members. Every time I hear this song it takes me back to the town where my parents and I lived until I was 5 years-of-age. I can feel the car rolling across some railroad tracks and turning onto one of the main streets. The song is “Hit The Road Jack” written and performed by Ray Charles.
One particular song brings back a strong memory from the fall of 1961. It was the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. I attended McQuaid Jesuit High School which was way across the city of Rochester, New York from where I lived. I had to take a Rochester Transit Company bus from my house downtown and transfer to a second bus that would eventually arrive at the school. That Fall there was a bus strike and since I couldn’t ride the bus my parents had to find another way for me to get to school. They both worked and there was no way they could drive me to school and still get to work since we had only one car. We found a freshman student who lived nearby and his father drove us to school. I’d walk to his house and wait in his dining room until it was time to leave. That first day they had the radio turned on and the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was playing. It was sung by the Tokens, but was originally recorded in the Zulu language in 1939.Whenever I hear that song I can see myself sitting in a strange house waiting to be driven to school.
We’ll move on to the 1970s next. In 1971 My wife and I were living in Binghamton, New York where she worked in a hospital and I was a disk jockey at a local radio station. The song that triggers the strong memory of that time is “Joy To The World” written by Hoyt Axton ( best known to many as the failed inventor father in the 1984 movie “Gremlins.”) and sung by Three Dog Night. What made that time so special is that we were waiting for the birth of our first child, Michelle.
May 1979 had us moving from Austin, Texas to Spokane, Washington for my job as the main weather anchor at KREM-TV. The drive seemed like it would last forever so we kept alert and mentally occupied listening to the radio. One particular song that was played on all of the rock stations we tuned in was “YMCA” by The Village People. It was the kind of song that could be sung while driving and keep you alert when you start feeling tired.
Then there was the time back in 1981 when we drove from Spokane, Washington to Evansville, Indiana to move to a new job for which I was hired. The tedium of the 2,500 mile trip was eased by listening to the radio. The theme song from one of our favorite television shows at the time had been released as a single and was played on many rock stations. We heard it, and of course, sang along each and every time it was played on multiple stations along the route. The show was “The Greatest American Hero and the theme song was called “Believe It Or Not.” That’s another song that helped keep me awake when “highway hypnosis” tried to get me to close my eyes while driving.
The end of the 1980s saw us living in Memphis, Tennessee. While working out at a local Gym one song that they had playing on a speaker in the workout room from a local radio station kept me riding the stationary bicycle when I wanted to quit. The beat of the song kept my feet peddling steadily. The song was “She Drives Me Crazy” by the group Fine Young Cannibals.
I’ll wrap this up with a song from the year 2000 that I listened to on my iPod while I walked a treadmill at the gym here in Eugene. It is the theme song from “Mission Impossible 2” that starred Tom Cruise. I particularly like the new arrangement they wrote for it adding in the Australian didgeridoo, also known as a didjeridu. To this day when I listen to that song I want to walk at a fast pace. I’m sure you have particular pieces of music, whether rock, country, classical, hip hop, jazz or whatever that brings back specific memories of events and times in your life.
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