Maybe the reason guys like me say things like, “today’s music doesn’t’ speak to me,” isn’t just because we are becoming geezers. Maybe it isn’t so much about the music or the lyrics or the beat, but because we don’t yet have any stories linked to those new songs. However, speaking for myself, since my only real exposure to current music is in Gold's Gym, and since if I didn't work out I would hear only what they play on NPR, if I don't have any personal stories tied to contemporary music, it might be my own fault.

In his clever book, “Manhood for Amateurs,” Michael Chabon, lamented the format change at his favorite radio station. They flipped from the oldies of his youth to contemporary pop, and it hurt. Each of those old songs linked to a story from Chabon’s life, and whenever he heard an old favorite he also remembered a favorite old story. He called it, “the mysterious power of the chance interaction between radio and memory.”

Chabon wrote, “More often there is no obvious thematic connection between a song on the radio and the memory that it somehow or other comes to preserve, between the iridescent bubble of the music and the air of the past that it randomly traps.”

While reading the book I started thinking of the memories and the stories that I flash to whenever I hear certain old songs, and I scribbled several in the margin. If I hear Steely Day singing “Reelin’ in the Years,” for example, I am transported back to the evening when fellow trombone player Jan Ramey gave me a ride home after evening band practice and we heard that song for the very first time her station wagon.

If I hear “Beginnings” by Chicago my memory runs back to my first date with my first girlfriend. If I hear “Never Ending Love For You” by Delaney and Bonnie I am instantly skiing with Cyndi, clicking my poles behind me for a rhythm track, singing to her.

If I hear “Jesus is Just Alright With Me” by The Doobie Brothers I remember sitting in my car on a rainy Sunday evening outside of Bellview Baptist Church in Hobbs waiting for the song to end before going inside, listening to the coolest song I had ever heard and the coolest song I could imagine ever hearing containing the name “Jesus.”

Whenever I hear the opening beats of “Fallen” by Lauren Woods my head snaps around looking for Cyndi who will already be walking toward me with arms outstretched ready to dance. It’s part of our ongoing story, forever linked to that song.

When I hear “Hit the Road Jack,” by Ray Charles, I remember the weekend when Cyndi was away teaching an aerobics workshop and the kids and I worked up a surprise for her. When we were ready to go somewhere, I would say, “Well, it’s time to hit the road,” and Katie would say, “Jack,” and Byron would say “Don’t you come back no more no more.” They were both preschoolers, I think. We practiced over and over all weekend, and when we picked Cyndi up at the airport and tried it on her, it worked perfectly. We all laughed and laughed we were so proud of ourselves. We repeated that little mantra many times through the years and I still think of it every time I hear the song.

I remember the first time I heard “Hey Jude” by Paul McCartney. I was riding in the backseat of my grandparent’s car on the way to a family reunion at Kirkland Docks on Lake Brownwood. I think of that scene every time I hear the song. I also think how strange it is to link my kind and gentle grandfather, a very conservative small-town Baptist preacher, with The Beatles and “Hey Jude.” He would’ve been shocked at the connection.

When I hear “Life Less Ordinary” by Carbon Leaf I am back on Highway 101 driving north from Ventura, California, enjoying the sunshine and relaxed freedom of the road, thinking once again of the extraordinary future I dream of with Cyndi, and I cannot help but smile.

Sunday night at our church we heard a concert by classical guitarist Rodrigo Rodriguez, and in one of his medleys he played a worship song from a few years back titled, “As the Deer.” I was immediately transported back to a Walk to Emmaus spiritual retreat that I attended in 1998 during an especially soft spiritual time in my life. After the concert I told Cyndi, “I could feel my biorhythms slow down when he played that song. It was as if I settled into a comfortable place.” That song, among others, will be forever linked to my stories from that weekend.

In fact, I could go on and on to the point of boredom listing songs linked to stories of my life, and perhaps I already have. I’m not sure the ones I mentioned are even the most important ones; they are just the first few I thought of right away. And I wonder if I would even remember those stories at all if I never heard the songs again. I can learn to enjoy new songs, but I would hate to lose my stories.


How about you. What are your songs with stories?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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