The soundtrack to our lives

Watching the Michael Jackson memorial in bits and pieces in between work, I noticed that so many mentioned his songs as the “music they grew up to”. And it made me think of two things:

First, I’ve always said the music you listen to is the soundtrack to your life. But thinking about it today, I realized that as a musician I deal with that differently than maybe a lot of non-musicians. You might think key moments, and the songs that are associated with those times, are like “the song that was playing when I lost my virginity”, “my first slow dance”, “music from that summer by the pool”, “my wedding song”. Maybe. But for me, the key music always involves my being a musician – the first song I performed for a girl, the first song I wrote, the song I wrote when my father died.

Second, “the music I grew up to”. Because it transports you to a different time, a time of “innocence”. Because you don’t listen to music anymore? Because music changed and you never did? Because you just “don’t understand kids today and their music”? REALLY? The first record I ever heard was Elvis. The second, the Beatles. But those records don’t inform or make who I am any more than Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead (the first time I heard it) or Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 4 or Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert or James Brown Live at the Apollo. Unless the movie is over, or you’re in a constant state of flashback, the soundtrack (which has to play at the speed of now, or die) is constantly changing. It evolves, or your storyline (and your character) never do.

I’ve always hated nostalgia, “oldies” radio formats, and revival musicals (like Grease or High School Musical X, that dare to presume that anywhere near the majority of people had a positive experience in high school, regardless of the decade they attended). Like Satchel Paige once said, “don’t look back…something might be gaining on you.”

I think it was Chris Rock who said that the music that is the most important to you in your life, that you remember the most fondly, is whatever happened to be playing at the time you first had sex.

Is that true? Personally, no.

My soundtrack is on an entirely different level.

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