Monday, June 27, 2011

day 16 - a song with clever lyrics

Today's challenge was supposed to be "a song you used to like and now you hate". Meh. Whatever. I asked Darren to give me a new one, and he said, "A song with clever lyrics".

Immediately, I clapped my hands and said, "I know which one!!"... and turned to my keyboard to start typing.

He replied, with a snark in his voice, "... that alliterative one?"

"Yes. How'd you know?" I asked.

"I know you," he replied.

He thinks it's a dumb song that makes no sense. Maybe it is. I still love it.

But because of his immediate correct guess, i thought I'd so some soul-searching. What other lyrics do I think are clever?

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking.
Racing around to come up behind you again.
- - - Pink Floyd, "Time"

People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share,
and no one dares disturb the Sound of Silence.
- - - Simon & Garfunkel, "Sounds of Silence"

I think that every Rush song ever recorded has amazingly clever lyrics, but I'm choosing this one because I love the rhyme scheme:

And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones to start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the Heart

The Blacksmith and the Artist
Reflect it in their art
Forge their creativity
Closer to the Heart

Philosophers and Ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the Heart

You can be the Captain
I will draw the Chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the Heart
- - - Rush, "Closer to the Heart"

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
- - - Green Day, "Good Riddance"

This one just cracks me up:

I love you like a fat kid loves cake
- - - 50 Cent, "21 Questions"

Ok, it's been 3 hours and I've listened to U2, Sting, Neil Young, the Eagles, Randy Newman, Coldplay, Led Zeppelin (who, by the way, sang about Lord of the Rings and I never noticed it until this weekend on our road trip when Darren noticed it. Check out the lyrics to "Ramble On": T'was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair. But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her....yeah....)

I could be up all night searching for the song with the most clever lyrics. But instead, seeing as how I have to be at work in 7 hours, I'll just stick with the one that popped in to my head in the first place. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

day 15 - a song that describes you

I decided a long, long time ago that life is what you make it.

I was a shy kid. (No, really, I was!) In fact, in second grade, I was so enamored of my teacher and so shy that I was HORRIFIED at the thought of asking her for permission to go to the restroom. So instead, I sat at my little desk and wet my pants. Not once, but twice. After the second time, my Mom made me hang a green plaid double-knit homemade one-piece zippered-up jumpsuit in my locker, and I knew that if I wet myself again, I'd have to change into that horrid outfit. I don't know if she knew how much I hated it, but the fact that I can describe it in detail and still feel the wedgie it gave me speaks for itself. So does the fact that I decided I'd rather approach the front of the room and speak to Mrs. Wright than wear it.

In 7th grade, I was still shy, and utterly miserable. There were a million kids I didn't know, and I was too shy to do anything about it. I was a wallflower the whole year long, and was disgusted at myself for it. That summer, I decided it was now or never: I needed a reinvention. On the first day of 8th grade, I came out of my shell, complete with surround sound and strobe lights and a bullhorn. I would be SHY NO MORE. I realized almost immediately that life was grand when you actually had the courage to LIVE it. I never looked back.

In college, I was the queen of figuring out how to have fun on the cheap. Everything was reason to celebrate, God was worthy of all my praise, and life was just FUN. I couldn't afford anything I wanted - or even needed, for that matter - but it was okay. Just living on my own was enough. I applied a million times for credit at the electronics store near the video store where I worked. I NEEDED a stereo system. With all my heart, I wanted one. I applied every few months, and was denied each time. (Ding ding ding on my credit report. I had no idea I was making it worse!) But even with that minor heartbreak each time, I was okay. I'd just try again! It's not having what you want...It's wanting what you've got.

As an eternal optimist, I've always given people the benefit of the doubt. I always think people can change, even after proving me wrong 12 times in a row. Some of my deepest heartache has come from believing and hoping in that. Finally, sometime in the last decade, I learned that it wasn't my responsibility to make miserable people happy, or to save people who wanted to flounder, or to join the cast of people who needed their lives to be Lifetime dramas. I allowed myself to let go. That part was easy; getting over the guilt of letting go was a lot harder. Every time I turn around I'm looking up, you're looking down...Maybe something's wrong with you That makes you act the way you do

I'm not saying I never have bad days. Word To The Mommas, I do. In fact, I'm coming off a pretty nasty streak of funk right now. But for the most part, my mantra is to soak up the sun. Sometimes I have to give myself a swift kick in the pants and tell myself to lighten up, but...

"I've got no one to blame. For every time I feel lame I'm looking up..."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

day 14 - a song that people would be surprised you like

I'm pretty vocal about my disdain for country music. It makes me want to punch our cat in the face. Poor cat. She doesn't deserve that.

I say I hate it, but even I have to recognize that there are strains of it filtering throughout this blog challenge. When I force myself to think about it, I realize that my song choices for days 1, 6, 8, and 10 have country leanings, however subtle they may be. And so let me issue a disclaimer right here: I hate country music, but Johnny Cash, Don Williams, Paul Overstreet, and John Denver don't count. Oh - and The Judds' "Love Can Build A Bridge" doesn't count, either. BUT OTHER THAN THAT...


About 4 years ago, I was getting ready one morning while Good Morning America kept me company on the TV, and it was one of their outdoor concert series days. The TV was in my bedroom, and I was listening from the bathroom nearby, but not watching. Kenny Chesney was scheduled to perform, and I could not have cared less.

He started singing, and I still didn't care. Then he got to the chorus, and I caught myself wandering into the bedroom, then realized I was fixated to the TV. I loved the chorus! I loved loved loved the words. The he sang the last verse, and I thought, DADGUM IT ALL, I'm gonna have to buy a country song. I'm pretty sure I HMPHed about it, too.

I haven't listened to the song in a long time now, until tonight, and I'm wondering why I don't give it more air time. I really, really like it. That oughta shock the pants off some of you, and it'll make Heidi really, really proud.

Well, I'm what I am
And I'm what I'm not.
And I'm sure happy
With what I've got.
I live to love and laugh a lot,
And thats all I need.

Never wanted nothin' more.
And I never wanted nothin' more.

Monday, June 20, 2011

day 13 - a song that is a guilty pleasure

I love CeeLo with his big ol' smile and his Elton John-esque style. But I have a confession. I didn't even know who he was until Glee covered the PG version of "F You". When Santana says to Gwyneth, "What would you know about CeeLo? 'Cause you're like, forty."... um, yeah. She coulda been talking to me.

Immediately, I was a fan. As soon as the show was over, I hopped on iTunes and listened to CeeLo's original version and then the safe-for-kids version. Then I bought "Forget You", twice.

Here's the guilty-pleasure part: I like Gwyneth's version better! I think it's because I heard hers first, and also that I was so smitten with her sassy character on the show. I feel as though I should have my music license revoked for admitting this out loud, but I guess that's what also makes it a guilty pleasure. I'm kinda embarrassed that I like it so much, but I sho' nuff do love to sing along at the top of my lungs!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

day 12 - a song that makes you want to...cuddle

The official Day 12 challenge is "a song from a band you hate". I thought about it for a long time. I don't hate any musicians. There are some I certainly don't enjoy, but it's no fun to write about stuff that drives you nuts (Rihanna, specifically "Only Girl (in the world)" - yawwwwwwn) or makes you cranky (the way Rebecca St James ends every phrase with a grunty sigh) or makes you snarl (Lady GaGa, now that we all know you have legitimate pipes, Put On Some Pants. Gah.)

So I asked my FB friends for another topic, and Cara immediately replied with the challenge in the title above. Before I could even take a breath, I knew which song I'd use. :)

I don't have much to say about it, except that the rhythm is perfection and Jon Bon Jovi's voice drips with sensuality. The first time I heard it, I had the urge to grab Darren by the face and plant a wet sloppy one right on his kisser. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. That's none o' your bizness. :D

Saturday, June 18, 2011

day 11 - a song from your favorite band

Asking me to choose a favorite Pink Floyd song is like asking me to name my favorite child.

No, it's even harder - I only have three children. There are a thousand Pink Floyd songs I love. At least a hundred. Well, dozens. Okay, twenty some-odd. Whatever. I love Pink Floyd.

Most of their lyrics are somber, melancholy, dark, brooding, insane. Admittedly, they don't match my personality. I don't know what most of them mean, and I'm okay with that. People say you have to be on drugs to understand. I will admit here that drugs don't necessarily help. I used to watch The Wall every couple of months. It's a freaking disturbing movie, but the music is amazing. I remember my first roommate in college would get sick to death of me watching it, and would leave the room in a big huff when I put the tape in. Oops.

So why do I love it so much? I don't know. Their music is brilliance. Every song is multi-layered and dimensional. I love the maelstrom of unusual harmonies, the symphonic bits, the bluesy/jazzy riffs, the psychedelic melodies. They sounded like no one before them, and no one after them has come close to duplicating their genius.

During the course of the 90s and into the early 2000s, I got rid of all of my cassette tapes. I still have all my Pink Floyd ones, though. I can't seem to let them go. I have every one of them, packed safely in a box in my closet. Is that weird? I still haven't accumulated all of them on CD. I'm missing the more obscure ones, and somewhere along the way, I lost The Wall. I should replace it. Maybe someday.

I saw them live in 1988 at Cowboys Stadium. Three things stand out to me from that concert: 1) I learned what it meant to "drop acid". Silly me, I had no idea why my friends were sucking on little pieces of paper until hours later; 2) I was desperately trying to impress the guy I was with by smoking a cigarette, but foolishly tried to light up in the back of a convertible while flying down the freeway, and he laughed; and 3) out of the dozens of concerts I'd attended, none came close to comparing to Pink Floyd. From the lasers and crazy psychedelic effects to the infamous flying pig to the flawless musicianship, I was mesmerized.

When trying to think of what my favorite song might be, I immediately came up with four from which to choose: Comfortably Numb & Hey You (both from The Wall), Wish You Were Here (album of the same name), and Us & Them (Dark Side of the Moon). Then I remembered Pigs (from Animals), Brain Damage/Eclipse (Dark Side), Have A Cigar (WYWH), and Great Gig in the Sky (Dark Side), which has no lyrics, but features an amazing woman with an ethereal voice named Clare Torry who wails hauntingly throughout the whole song.


...okay. Three hours have passed since I started this post. I've subjected Darren to nonstop Pink Floyd, sometimes the same songs more than once. Every now and then, he'd laugh when I'd get all excited and profess that "THIS one is my favorite." He finally gave up and went to bed. I got up and poured a glass of tea, promising to head upstairs soon. When I sat back down at the computer, I realized that the challenge is simply to choose A SONG from your favorite band, not your favorite song from your favorite band. Well, then. THAT makes it easier. *whew*!

Comfortably Numb features arguably one (actually two) of the best guitar solos of all time, at the hands of the great David Gilmour. Gilmour and Waters share lead vocals - Gilmour singing the lighter parts (..."when I was a child") and Waters singing the darker parts ('s just a little pinprick). And.... it is the first song that came to mind when I started this post. One more listen, and then I'm really heading upstairs.

day 10 - a song that makes you sleep

In high school, I got in the habit of sleeping with headphones on. I was convinced that I couldn't sleep without my music, and who knows - maybe it was true. I listened to the radio - sometimes rock, occasionally all-night trucker radio, and on Sunday nights, Dr. Demento on 98.1 The Zoo.

My second year of college, I lived in a tiny two-room rental house that had been someone's slave quarters many years before. I'd never lived alone, and for the most part, I loved it. But I hated the nights. I slept not with headphones, but with my stereo playing softly enough that I could hear scary noises should they happen to occur.

I had a mix tape that I played most every night during those 9 months. It started with James Taylor's Greatest Hits, then moved on to several Simon and Garfunkel songs before the 90-minute tape ran out. I still remember what the tape looked like - it had a clear body - Memorex, I think - with bright yellow and magenta blocks of color on it where I wrote "Goodnight Moonlight Ladies". I can't believe I remember that.

Sometimes, the tape played through and I'd still be lying there trying to fall asleep, watching the shadows dance on the wall across the room. Most times, though, I'd drift off to James Taylor's soothing vocals, and awaken briefly when the stereo's "play" button popped up at the end of the tape. For some reason, I was sort of embarrassed about my love for his music. Whatever. I had dozens of classic rock albums and 80s tapes; posters of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Pink Floyd adorned my walls. But it was James Taylor who rocked me to sleep.

When I finally converted to CDs in the early 90s, James Taylor's Greatest Hits was the first one I bought. His voice is so pure, so smooth, so unpretentious. There's nothing fancy about it, nothing cheesy, nothing showy. He exudes a gentleness that eases my mind and calms my soul. Forty-plus years after he first hit the scene, his music is still relevant. I can't listen to him and not be moved.

Oh, rockabye, Sweet Baby James.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

day 09 - a song that you can dance to

I grew up in the Church of Christ. And it wasn't today's version, either. It was the 1970s-80s version when dancing was a sin, and a big one. I was only allowed to go to Favorites and Prom after promising my parents I wouldn't dance. They needn't have worried; I didn't know how, and I was painfully aware of that fact. All my friends had been properly schooled on dance etiquette and how to make your body move to the groove in years of tap, jazz, ballet, and Stardusters classes. The only dance move I knew was The Awkward Sway, with your knees locked and your shoulders slumped and not having a clue where to put your hands that wasn't WRONG. Anybody with me?

Men Without Hats had a popular song back then called "Safety Dance". "Your friends don't dance and if they don't dance, well they're no friends of mine." I loved that song, but hated it at the same time, 'cause I was "the friends". (Back then, I had no idea the song was about nuclear war. Still not sure it really was, but I digress.)

Sometime in adulthood, when I finally came to the realization that dancing isn't wrong, I decided to go all out. When I dance, I do this funky thing with my mouth that I don't mean to do. I don't dance so much as flail. It's not pretty. It sure isn't technical. It usually evokes raucus laughter. But I can't help it. When I feel it coming on, it hardly matters who I'm with or where I am - this girl's gotta dance! I suppose it's all those repressed dances of my youth trying to get out at once.

There's not a song in the world that awakens my inner dance freak like this one does. For a long time, it was the primary ring tone on my cell phone, but eventually, I had to change it because I kept missing calls. See, when it would start ringing, I'd start dancing, and before I could control myself, the call had gone to voicemail. Also, my phone rings a lot and Darren was starting to really hate the song. I couldn't allow THAT to happen!

One time at a scrapbooking retreat, I was sitting at my table minding my own business, when I noticed that everyone was laughing. At me. Sure enough, they were, 'cause one of my friends had played this song on her iPod and told everyone to watch me. Just as she'd predicted, I'd immediately started dancing in my seat, oblivious that anyone was paying attention. Those first five notes could wake me up from ANYwhere!

I like to joke that I was born the wrong color in the wrong decade.
Darren says if I would dance to this song once a day, I'd be fit and trim.

Here I go!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

day 08 - a song you know all the words to

I tend to know all the words to just about every song I've ever liked. It's a weird thing, my memory. As a kid, I often wondered how it was that I could memorize lyrics without even batting an eyelash, and yet I had the hardest time remembering facts that were crucial to passing, say, geometry. If only Dr. Bergren had taught chemistry in song, I'd have done better in her class, too. As an adult, I often joke that I can remember who sang every one hit wonder that ever hit the charts, but I can't remember when the War of 1812 happened. My brain is crowded with miscellaneous musical fluff.

For most of my young teens, I was obsessed with Journey, to the point that now in my young 40s, I can still sing every word and every nuance of every song on both the Frontiers and Escape albums. Same thing with James Taylor's Greatest Hits (Vol 1), The Eagles' Greatest Hits (1 and 2), Kansas (the best of), and Pink Floyd's The Wall. And then there are the other thousand or so songs I can sing beginning to end. I can't even begin to name them all. Stairway to Heaven, Bohemian Rhapsody, and every other legendary song is on the list, as well as more obscure stuff like The Judys' "Milk". (It's fortified! With vitamins! It's pasteurized! I love it! It's ho-mo-genized....") It's a sickness, really.

But for the purpose of this challenge, I'm gonna go with John Denver. As a kid, I abhorred the man and his country bumpkim voice. It wasn't really him I hated though, but rather, what I associated him with. See, at my house, Saturday was cleaning day at the Agee house. From the time we woke up until late afternoon, we deep cleaned. If we finished our assigned chores too early, we either got to do them again, or we were given a new task, such as "clean out the shed", or "organize the garage". We learned to make our indoor chores last all day. And the soundtrack to Cleaning Day was John Denver. *shudder*

Mom was a fanatic. She loved him more than any other singer - ever - and owned every album he ever released. She'd stack those albums up on the stereo, carefully place the needle at the beginning of the first one, and as the hours ticked by, those albums dropped to the turntable one by one by one by one. "You fill up my senses like a night in the forest"... "Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River" ... "sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy"....

Sometimes I'd catch myself scrubbing the oven, singing along and enjoying myself, which made me hate it even worse. I made it my goal to hate John Denver despite myself.

Then a funny thing happened. As an adult, I found myself craving his music from time to time, especially, to my great chagrin, when I was cleaning house. I was just about to the point of actually appreciating his music when he died tragically in a plane crash off the California coast. I remember the next day at work, how my boss mourned his death exactly like I imagined my Mom was mourning up in Oklahoma. And oddly, I mourned him, too. He defined my childhood - not just because he was the soundtrack to Saturday Cleaning Day, but also because our family vacations were spent in the Rocky Mountains, and his songs, by definition, conjured up those wonderful memories.

These days, I love John Denver's music. In fact, tonight, Darren is taking me to Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra's Concerts in the Garden, featuring "Country Roads: The Music of John Denver". I can't wait. As soon as I publish this post, I'll head out to Central Market to buy some frou-frou picnic food and spirits to enjoy while we kick back and enjoy "...and hey it's good to be back home again....". Yeah. Be proud, Mom. You raised me right. I love John Denver.

This isn't my favorite JD song -not by a long shot- but I can't pick a favorite. So I'm using this one anyway, because I *do* know every word, and who doesn't love the Muppets?! *grin*

Saturday, June 11, 2011

day 07 - a song that reminds you of a specific event

We were 150 miles from home, headed for Colorado. All was well. Dani and the boys were watching a movie in the backseat. I was snoozing shotgun, and Darren was driving. In the CD player was a mix called "Stuff Darren Likes", and Aaron Neville's "Crazy Love" was playing.

I always snooze in the car, and this time, I was sleeping pretty hard. All of a sudden, I heard a grinding, screeching sound, and the car was slowing down FAST. As I opened my eyes, my gaze fell on a tire - nay, a whole wheel - bouncing along in slow motion outside the driver's side window. As Aaron Neville's voice filled my head, I sat up and watch the tire speed ahead of us, cross the grassy median, continue onto the oncoming lanes, and eventually come to rest several hundred yards away in the ditch on the other side. As it bounced along, I shook my head, trying to loosen the cobwebs that cluttered my sleepy mind.

"Is that OUR tire???" I asked.

I couldn't make sense of it. There had been no blow-out. I hadn't felt it, and besides... the tire rolling down the highway was obviously intact.

"Yes," was all Darren said.

Then we were stopped. He jumped out of the car, crossed the highway and jogged to where the wheel had come to rest. By then, the song had ended, and there was an eerie silence in the car. The boys were oblivious, engrossed in their movie. Dani and I wondered aloud what had happened. We watched Darren roll the wheel back toward us, jogging the whole way in 96 degree heat.

"What on earth?" I asked.

"The whole [front driver's side] wheel came off," he answered. "The lug nuts are gone."

At that point, we all piled out of the car. The boys and Dani sat up on a hill away from the highway. I helped Darren unload the back of the Xterra so he could access the jack.

The grinding sound that woke me was the brake rotor scraping against the pavement. It was destroyed. Turns out, the fine young man who rotated our tires for free the day before - who also happens to be my husband - had forgotten to tighten all the lug nuts on that one tire. Oops. Near crisis averted, thank God. We were only a couple of miles from a small town, though, and decided to take our chances. Darren borrowed a lug nut from each of the other three wheels, and used them to secure the lost wheel back to the car. We limped into town and were back on the road in just a few hours.

For the rest of my life, when I hear the strains of "She gives me love, love, love, love, crazy love" in that beautiful tenor vibrato, I'll see the image of our tire bouncing down the highway.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhere

Several years ago, I made a CD for road trips called "Songs Darren likes". It's also a playlist on my iTunes, so every now and then, we find ourselves listening to it. One of the songs on the mix is "Amazing Grace" by The Maverick Choir, and it always transports me straight to Bozeman, Montana.

It was 1994. Dani was three years old, and Darren and I had an itch to move to the mountains. He was stuck in a sort of dead-end job, we were broke, and we had nothing to lose, so we dropped off Dani at my parents' house in Kansas, and hit the road on a job hunt. We swung through Colorado Springs, then up to Boulder (I loved Boulder, but Darren hated it, which for years was a bone of contention between us!), then further north to Laramie, Wyoming. Along the way, we camped. Outside of Laramie, we pitched our tent above a frozen lake; to this day, that's the coldest I have ever been in my life. I thought the dawn would NEVER come! Coming down from the mountain the next morning, we could see rain storms way out across the plains, and our vantage point on the mountain made it seem as though we were at eye-level with the clouds that created them. We watched the gray sheets of rain slowly descend toward earth, and wondered in awe at how the rain just evaporated in mid-air, never reaching the ground. It was a scene I will never forget as long as I live.

From Laramie, we drove up through the Tetons and into Yellowstone. We'd both been just a few years earlier - during the summer we fell in love - but on separate trips. It was wonderful to experience it together this time. Our final destination was Bozeman, Montana, where we spurged on a cheap hotel room downtown. We immediately fell in love with the town.

That night, we decided to go see a movie. The old theater was a throwback to vaudeville, with its heavy red draperies and velveteen seat cushions. The curtains parted to reveal a single movie screen, and we sat back and enjoyed "Maverick", the rompy comedy starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster. It became an instant favorite of ours, in part because the story was fun, but mostly because of the setting and the fact that we were on this big, crazy adventure together. At the end of the movie, we were riveted to our seats during the credits while "Amazing Grace" played on the big screen. We loved it! I had always wished those lyrics had been put to more up tempo music; I always felt like it should be such a JOYFUL song, and yet when we sang it in church, it always sounded so gloomy.

The Maverick version of Amazing Grace was everything I'd always wished the song could be. It was the same familiar tune, but ... rockin'!

The next morning, we attended church and Darren even spoke with a man about a job. Eventually, by way of Idaho, Utah and back through Colorado, we made it to Kansas and then home. The move never materialized beyond our romantic notions, but the song remains the "soundtrack" of a carefree, idealistic, wonderful trip through the Colorado Rockies, and specifically, a beautiful town called Bozeman, Montana.

day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone

Every time I hear the song "Creep" by Radiohead, I immediately think of my friend Eric Tomme, aka SeaMonkey, who parodied it with his own version called "Sheep".

When Rick Springfield comes across my speakers, specifically "Jessie's Girl", I can't help but think of Cara Thames, who still credits it as her favorite 80s song to this day. Same thing with Don Henley's "Boys of Summer", Kristi Carman's favorite 80s song. I made a mix tape of 80s tunes for us a few years ago, and we burned those CDs up on all of our road trips. Heck, even just driving around town was reason enough to pop in that CD.

I'll never hear Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" without thinking of Tiffany Begley. I've had to call Ginger Lambert more than once just because Cheap Trick's live version of "I Want You To Want Me" was playing on the radio. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's mash-up of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "What A Wonderful World" will always make me think fondly of Donna Bobbie, thanks to a mix tape made in her honor by Nancy Daley.

Some songs remind me of the people who introduced them to me: Ingrid Michaelson's "Just the Way I Am" came to me courtesy of Elaine Poplin. "Your Smiling Face" (James Taylor) still reminds me of Jeff Smith, who gave it to me my senior year of high school. Believe it or not, I had never heard Billy Joel's "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" until two years ago; Carrie Dressler was so aghast at the discovery that she immediately gifted it to me through iTunes. One of my dearest high school friends, Jeff Pryor, introduced me to Pink Floyd, and "Us and Them" especially makes me think of him. I love that so many songs make me think of so many people. I've been richly and abundantly blessed in this life with friendship, and music seems to have played a big role in those relationships. I'm grateful that it helps keep them alive!

Perhaps the gift of song I'm most grateful for is that of Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli's duet "The Prayer". I've mentioned it several times on this blog. Just after Aidan was born in early December 2000, our dear friend Sonny Tomme brought Dion's new Christmas CD to me as a gift. He was a huge fan, and he knew that I couldn't stand her. So when he handed me the CD, all wrapped up in paper, he watched with a huge grin on his face as I opened it. I tried to feign delight when I saw what it was, but he knew better. "Don't judge it until you try it," he counseled.

I judged it anyway, and cringed through the first several songs. Then "The Prayer" came on. Word to the Mommas, that was the most beautiful song I'd ever heard! I specifically remember, later that night, lying on my bed with tiny baby Aidan beside me, listening to the song on repeat until we both fell asleep. I never grew tired of it. To this day, it has that affect on me. Everytime I make someone a new baby CD, The Prayer goes on it. It played a huge part in my thyroid surgery a year and a half ago. Sometimes throughout the year, I crave it and pull it up on my iTunes. I would bet it's safe to say that I've never once listened to it that I didn't think of Sonny and feel grateful that he made me give that album a try. (For the record, the song made me a huge Bocelli fan, but I'm still annoyed by Celine Dion.)

It's been ten Christmases now, and Sonny's been gone for two years. Still, that album is the first one I pull out as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are cleared. I skip straight to The Prayer, and then allow the rest of the CD to play.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

day 04: a song that makes you sad

It's funny. I don't tend to like sad songs and I don't generally buy them, yet when this challenge popped up, I immediately thought of several. The first one that came to mind was such an obvious choice that I dimissed it immediately. Next was Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me". Then I thought of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold", followed by REM's "Everybody Hurts". When I remembered David Bowie's epic "Space Oddity", I knew I'd found the one. But then I remembered the old Hank Williams tune "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". I listened to each of them, and each one brought back specific memories and places and times in my life. For instance, anything by Neil Young reminds me of smoking Swisher Sweets cigarillos and walking all over the Turtle Creek golf course late at night during my junior year of high school. And for some reason, the Hank Williams song made me giggle. It's just so over-the-top sad - and I couldn't get my Grandma Mildred out of my head. I think she must have played it for me or sang it to me or something at some point in my life. Anyway, listening to it didn't make me feel sad, but rather silly. ha.

Though all these songs are sad in their own ways, none of them seemed quite right for the challenge. None of them make ME sad, I guess. So I decided to listen to the one I'd dismissed in the first place, and whaddaya know: as soon as the first three notes were plucked out on the guitar, I felt the wave of sadness come over me. Darren was sitting behind me and said, "You know you have to use this one."

It came out in 1992, when Dani was still a baby. I remember hearing the story on the news - Eric Clapton's 4-year old son had fallen out of his mother's 56th floor window in NYC - and feeling completely shaken by it. I genuinely mourned for him - I hurt and cried for a man I'd never meet and a little boy I'd never known. I think it resonated so deeply with me because I was always worried that I'd do something terribly careless and end up losing Dani, or worse. For instance, for a period of time when she was still an infant, I worried that I'd forget that she was in the grocery cart and drive off with my groceries but without my baby. Yeah, I wasn't altogether well back then.

Several months ago - or a couple of years, who knows - I was watching some celebrity show on TV - probably Biography, but again, who knows - about Eric Clapton. He said that he was performing the song in Japan in 2004 when he suddenly realized that he was only performing it, not feeling it. He realized that he'd lost the emotion behind the song. He didn't want it to become just another song in his repertoire that he didn't feel anything about, but he also didn't especially want those feelings back, so he decided to stop performing it altogether. I would imagine that in that moment, he felt a sense of relief and of loss. Letting go must be one of the hardest stages of grief. I cannot imagine.

I always loved his MTV Unplugged version best, so it's the one I'm linking here. I can't believe it's been almost 20 years since the tragedy, and since I first heard the song. Seems like yesterday.

Monday, June 06, 2011

day 03 - a song that makes you happy

A year and a half ago, Dani was living in College Station as a freshman at Texas A&M. She'd actually been gone from home since the day after high school graduation, and by mid fall-semester, I was feeling woefully behind the times as far as music went. I'd grown accustomed to her keeping my iTunes account up-to-date with new music and introducing me to new bands while I stayed true to my classic rock radio station. When she came home for a visit in October, I said, "Give me something new to listen to. What's something I'd like?"

She turned me on to several new songs that night, but "Jump Rope" is the one that hooked me. I loved it immediatey and listened to it over and over until I could sing every word without messing up. Gee, some things never change. I remember doing that with my orange vinyl record player and my Grease soundtrack way back in the day! ("We go together like ramma lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong...")

Jump Rope is just happy. Its melody is bouncy, its rhythm is contagious, and its lyrics are a well-balanced mix of joyful optimism and no-frills honesty. Blue October isn't exactly known for bubble-gummy, bouncy pop. In fact, most of their music is pretty dark and heavy. The lead singer and songwriter struggles with mental illness, and his raw lyrics are usually born of those experiences. This particular song was written to his daughter, and I love that he isn't afraid to tell her that sometimes life hurts, but it'll get better if you just see it through.

This song makes me happy 'cause it SOUNDS happy, for one thing. I can't hear it and not sing along and tap my feet and dance in my seat. But it also makes me happy because it will always remind me of that Friday night in October, welcoming my college freshman home after too many weeks away, and the family fun of listening to a song ad nauseum with all my chicks in the nest together again.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

day 02 - your least favorite song

It's June, so don't ask me why when I saw today's challenge, the first song that popped into my head was a Christmas song. And yet as soon as my eyes passed over the words "least favorite", I started humming Wham's "Last Christmas" in my head. That song annoys the dog outta me. (Never was much of a Wham fan to begin with.)

But then almost immediately another Christmas song came to mind and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had to get some stuff off my chest.


There's a part of me that's afraid to write about this, because the song in question is a beloved one around here. I say that because every year as soon as the last of the good Halloween candy is gone, I start hearing it on the radio. People call in and ask for it. They love it. Sometimes they cry about it. When I hear it, my upper lip curls up like Elvis's, and I throw up in my mouth a little. It's the most contrived, emotionally manipulative, ridiculous excuse for a song I've ever heard. I especially hate it when the children's chorus comes in at the end. Gross.

Let me just tell you this: when my times comes, none of my kids better be out buying me some shoes "so their momma will look beautiful if she meets Jesus tonight." If Darren says "there's not much time", and my kid takes that as a cue to run out and find a way to buy me some pretty shoes, I'm pretty sure I've failed as a mother and I'll be begging God for a second chance.

Children-of-mine, hear this: if I'm on my deathbed, I want you at my side so I can tell you how much I prayed for you and how much God blessed me with you and how wonderful and perfectly made and awesome you are. I'll tell you that you make me incredibly proud, and I'll remind you that you are children of God, no matter what or where or how. I'll tell you that I am going to be fine, that I'll finally be able to wail like Aretha Franklin, and that for the first time EVER I'll have long fingernails and flowy, gorgeous hair. And... I'll be skinny. I'll go on about how this body I'm in is just an earth suit, and how I can't wait to shuck it and be on my merry way. I'll remind you that you have AMAZING LIVES TO LEAD, and destinies to fulfill, and people to touch, and memories to make, and dreams to catch. I'll tell you all how beautiful you are, and how it has nothing at all to do with your height, or your weight, or FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, THE SHOES YOU'RE WEARING.

If you're out at some random shoe store telling strangers about me on my death bed and how I've always given you everything you've ever needed but all I've ever wanted is this pretty pair of shoes and you're almost out of time because I'm DYING and you have to find a way to get me these shoes in case tonight's the big night, YOU ARE IN BIG TROUBLE. Don't you dare rob me of any precious moments with you, especially for something as trivial as shoes.

I'm not even gonna touch the "lesson" the man singing the song supposedly learned. What a stupid song.

Go on now and hate me. It's okay, I can take it.

day 01 - your favorite song

Contrary to popular belief, my favorite song is not The Commodores' "Brick House". I do love to break it down when that song comes on, and I have no shame about it. But that comes later in this challenge. :)

Day 1's topic is ridiculously difficult. How can I possibly pick a favorite song? My favorite songs change like the wind. Depends on my mood, my location, the time of year, who I'm with. Of course I'll have to pick something by Pink Floyd. Or no - something that has a driving beat. Or wait - a song whose lyrics I wish I'd written myself. Or... a song that defines me.

Several years ago, I was smitten with Jason Castro on American Idol. First, I loved his rendition of Jeff Beckley's "Hallelujah". Then, I was charmed by his cover of Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Jeans". It was then that I rediscovered "Song Sung Blue", which I vaguely remembered from childhood, but hadn't given any thought to since.

A great song doesn't have to top the charts. It doesn't necessarily feature brilliantly-composed music or drip with deeply philosophical prose. Sometimes, a great song is just a simple melody and familiar words that connect somewhere within you and make you feel.

For my whole adult life, I've battled an ugly, detestable monster called Depression. For most of my adult life, I've been good and taken the appropriate meds that keep it in check. I hate every single day that my brain's chemistry is such that I have to take those meds, because at the very core of my being, I Am Not An Unhappy, Glass-Half-Empty, Disengaged, Woe-Is-Me, Joyless Type Of Person. Sometimes, to prove it, I fall victim to the lie that tells me I would be okay without the meds. And then, several months later, when I've run out of energy and care, I give myself away by punching the cat in the face. No, I kid. But maybe I growl at the cat and wag my fist at her when she looks at me wrong. Yes. Yes, that is true. And then my gentle husband will ask, ever so cautiously, "Stace, are you still taking your meds?" And I'll lie and say yes, and immediately go and choke one down and be all pissy about it and then vow never to fall victim to The Lie again. After 20 years, you'd think I'd catch a clue.

I've always been a singer. Not for accolades - my talent is meager at best and I know it. I sing for joy. It's a funny thing, singing. In my BEST moods, I sing. (I must drive my coworkers batty because I'm one who will sing along with the radio all day long and not even realize it.) And in my BLUEST moods, I sing. (I remember one time years ago - possibly after three pregnancies and two infants in three years on zero sleep and having just finished off a half gallon of Blue Bell for breakfast - standing in the shower sobbing, and then forcing myself to sing sing sing until the sorrow left me.)

And THAT is why Song Sung Blue is my favorite. It's simple. It's familiar. It's truth.

Song sung blue. Everybody knows one.
Song sung blue, every garden grows one.
Me and you are subject to the blues now and then.
But when you take the blues and make a song, you sing them out again.

Song sung blue, weepin' like willow.
Song sung blue, sleepin' on my pillow.
Funny thing, but you can sing it with a cry in your voice
And before you know it get to feelin' good.
You've simply got no choice!

It's uncanny how Neil Diamond was able to write this song, perfect just for me, when I was a mere three years old, don't you think? ;)

21 days makes a habit

... or so I'm told.

I want to write for ME again.
I write all day every day for work.
I write for other people every time I'm asked.

I haven't written for me in way too long.
I miss it. I even need it.

And so, for me, I'm committing to doing this fun little 30 Day Song Challenge that's been all over Facebook this year. I know it'll be fun - I love music and talking about it and explaining why certain songs mean so much to me. Since junior high, I've been the Queen of the Mix Tape, for the sole reason of wanting - nay, NEEDING - people to appreciate the music that touches me. So I know I'll stick with this challenge. But instead of doing it on FB, I'll do it here, where I've got more room to wax poetic about the songs I choose for this list.

The challenge lasts 30 days. By week four, I should be in the habit of writing for me again.
That's the plan. Hang on. Here we go!