the significance of songs

Earlier this week, Dolores O’Riordan died. She was the lead singer in an Irish band called The Cranberries. Several of my favorite musicians and singers have died in the past couple of years, and several much more influential on me than Ms. O’Riordan. However, her death flooded my mind with memories, and the realization that for me, music is a marker of time, experiences, and emotions.

In 1993, I embarked on a one-year journey to study abroad. For those of you who are too young to remember a time before cell phones and WiFi: this was a BIG DEAL. Young people taking off around the world with only hand-written letters stuffed in envelopes and MAILED, with a stamp; and occasional, expensive phone calls to keep in touch…parents NOT really stressing-out for lack of up-to-the-minute photojournalistic updates BECAUSE THERE WAS NO SUCH THING. . . ahem. Sorry. I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah. . . so, equipped with a cassette-playing powder-blue Sony walkman, (that hyperlink is for the youngins again) a few mix tapes (young folk may have to look that up, too), and my one bag of clothing, I set off for a year at a university in France. First stop before reporting to university: the home of a friend who was an exchange student in my high school.

The first day I awoke in France, I lingered in bed a bit, unsure of whether anyone else was awake (turns out it was afternoon already–oops). I took a moment and plugged in my headphones, pushed “play” on the walkman, and Dreams was first in queue (lyrics here). As I looked out over the impossibly narrow street, observing vehicles smaller than I’d ever seen in the U.S. (we did love our big cars), listening to the chatter of another language waft up to my window, those first lines struck my very core:

Oh, my life is changing everyday,
In every possible way.
And oh, my dreams, it’s never quite as it seems,
Never quite as it seems.

MY life was changing. Right then. In that moment and for all the moments to follow. I couldn’t have dreamed anything like this, yet there I was. In truth, my life had all been changing all along, but I hadn’t paid attention the way I did right then. Those lyrics called me into an awareness I’d never quite appreciated before. The lyrics were powerful, and that year-long exchange experience would be marked by that one song.

You know, I watched this TEDx talk not too long ago; at the beginning, Wayne talks about his the way he recalls things as being linked to movies that he watched. And I thought, “Oh, good. I’m not the only one whose mind works like this.”

I wonder: If I made a playlist of my life’s moments, what would it reveal? What would yours? I would love to hear what would be on your playlists!

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I just used my SMARTPHONE to snap this image of a photo in my album. Haha! That’s nuts. When I was young, I would see a photo like this and say: Wow, that’s looks old-timey. Now MY kids are saying that about me and my photos of my past. . Dammit! Anyhow, this was the view from my bedroom in my friend’s apartment. What a change that was!

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