I was thrilled to learn that vinyl had staged a comeback for those of us who valued the unique sound only created by a needle drop. The scratchy beginning of a song on a 38 marked the start of my personal discography in junior high. Close friends would Serpa their latest acquisitions over to each other houses like a journey to Mecca for the shared experience of contemplating lyrical rhymes. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Foghat, and Black Sabbath were the early tunes to loudly bellow into my consciousness.
To come of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s meant no matter how straightlaced your parents’ political persuasion, trusting no one over the age of 40 years old was de rigor. Musical choices by extension of the rebellion against the establishment were subversive and edgy. As I started attaching myself to music, our nation left Vietnam and experienced a renaissance of creative juices. The 1970s produced Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, Led Zeppelin’s IV, and two Eagles records which remain in the top 10 best-selling albums of all time.
The psychological thesis that people like people who are like themselves might cause me to be musically self-conscious. However, I find myself only noticing those who make the same song choices as me not different ones. For a college course on writing, I was asked to pick three songs that resonated with me and indicate how they might have crafted my identity. Here is my list plucked from decades of music appreciation.
Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven (1971) became a holdover song from the turbulence of the Vietnam War and the battle for civil rights. At 7 minutes 55 seconds, the song delivered a high school boy’s dream of a neverending slow dance while defying conventions for the length of commercial record hits. Universally liked and cherished, Stairway carried very little identity branding with listeners.
However, my next choice of Kenny Loggins, Danger Zone (1986) brought an aircraft carrier full of war-monger baggage that Vietnam had engendered. I remember walking out of the movie in ‘86 and listening to the hate-filled anti-war sentiments being slung at the Tom Cruise and his flyboys. At least back then, Danger Zone cut a very sharp divide through the populace. Did I identify with the pro-military flick? Absolutely. I didn’t care what anyone thought. I was proud of my service to my country and its people. The conflict with the Soviet Union ended on my watch. I was a weapon of war and an instrument of peace. I didn’t make policy, I implemented it. Fortunately, times have changed and the military is no longer viewed in such stark terms, and Danger Zone has lost its baggage.
My music identity diverges substantially with the third song on my playlist, Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams (2018). Swift’s aspirational lyrics fuel my mind with the possible. As a single guy (yes, I know I am older) the imagery of verses like “You’ll see me in hindsight/Tangled up with you all night/Burnin’ it down/Someday when you leave me/I bet these memories/Follow you around” reminds me to make memories not to-do lists. Life’s short. Juiced by inspirational and aspirational tunes like Wildest Dreams on my playlist, I do some of my best thinking on my morning 4-mile runs.
I do not consider myself unique in loving a full spectrum of music from Rap and Spanish Guitar to Jazz. Music energizes and moves me. Three songs were hardly enough to explain the decades of my life. But I liked the exercise of thinking back into the stillness of memory. I recognize that I pick and choose lyrics ready to fuel my endeavors and pull at my heartstrings. Why not? Music is art.
Until next time. Travel safe.