IN OTHER WORDS | Music of a Life

This is a re-release of a post from 2009, with a little 2014 editing. Here is one of my favorite music posts.

I just thumbed through the records—vinyl LPs—found in cardboard boxes in my mother’s guest room. An eclectic mix of my childhood and my mother’s musical history—influences that are still with me. Two copies of The Beatles’ Revolver, a Rubber Soul, Beatles ’65, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, Bob Dylan—over and over again Dylan—Blonde on Blonde, Street Legal, Desire, Bringing It All Back Home and a copy of Highway 61 Revisited which I pulled to look at, that photo of him captivates me still. The price tag was still on the cover and immediately fell away when I touched it. It read: LIST PRICE $ 3.79 with a red line through it, then GOODY’S PRICE $2.99. And more. Coltrane, Monk, Parker, Gillespie, The Ornette Coleman Quartet, Frank Zappa, Erik Satie, Yiddish Folksongs, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Holly Near, Tchiachovsky, Mozart, speeches from the United States Presidents’ Series of FDR and JFK. And there are two more boxes.

I felt music memory flooding me, washing over me in melodic waves. Music is that way. And not just the music itself, but its form, its delivery. Were you moved by the sound for the first time on the radio? A mix tape made with an extra dose of crush/lust? On your first turntable, on your first LP?

I remember my first LP. Buying it was an event, not a keystroke on iTunes. I took the Chestnut Hill Local to Center City.  I had money. I don’t remember how much, but I’m sure it burned a hole in my pocket—a few ones, a five, maybe even a coveted ten dollar bill, loose change, and a pre-purchased return ticket out of Suburban Station. I walked proudly down Chestnut Street, stopping to make a loop at Wanamaker’s looking longingly at the perfume bottles and makeup. Feeling bold, I may have even tried a lipstick. I probably dallied, wanting to savor the event, make it last. When I finally reached Sam Goody’s I found my quarry. I think the section was called simply “Soul” then, maybe “R&B/Soul.” And, there it was, shimmering in its shrink-wrap: Earth Wind & Fire’s That’s The Way Of The World. I held it in my hand, wandered around the store for a few minutes looking at the guitars, other albums I wanted and then I struck. Babysitting money on the counter and I was the proud owner of that album. I owned it.

“That’s The Way Of The World” remains one of my favorite EWF songs today. And, despite the changes, growth, evolution of my musical tastes, remains one of my favorite songs of all time because of how it came in to my life. And my life is now 3,000 miles across the country with the musical influences to reflect time, geography, and age. But the records of my life began decades ago in Philly and are marked like scratches on vinyl, musical notes strung together to create song—and memory.


You’ll see a new post from me, every day in November as part of National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo. Join in for an entire month dedicated to writing. See BlogHer for all the information you need to get started.


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