I just came upon my cd of Carly Simon’s “No Secrets.” Talk about a soundtrack from your past. This one is on the top three. For me, it’s New Delhi, India. 1973. I’m nine years old. We play this album so often, it’s like the McCloy family album of 1973.
It brings me back to early evenings in the living room, parents sipping cocktails. Then, to my room. Playing our old piano along with one of the songs, “Embrace Me.” Playing the song over and over and over, trying to learn how to play the piano by hitting the keys along in tune, singing the words, “then one night daddy died, and went to Heaven and God came down to Earth and slipped away.” How I would imagine what that would be like. My daddy dying. The emotions. The loss. Little did I know my dad would die when I was still relatively young; 21 years old.
Every song had its own world of meaning. The particular context of the time in our lives when it became imprinted. The correlation of its tone and lyrics to the mood it created. Carly was with us there. Our little bubble of life at 12 Friends Colony West, New Delhi.
My brother and his wife named their daughter Carly. My family fondly thinks it has to do with the influence that Ms. Simon had on us. The love she brought. The family bonds she created. It sounds corny, but we all have music that sticks with us like that. We may not always remember about certain artists or songs, but when we hear an impactful song from the past, boy, do those floodgates of sense memory open up and remind us!
We might have intellectual disconnects in the present and poo-poo an artist that once brought us joy, because they are no longer hip or heard or popular or understood. But ya can’t take that memory away and the happiness that it brought you. The impact it has at a pivotal time in your life will never go away.
KC and the Sunshine Band’s “That’s the way I Like it.” For me, that’s Ithaca, New York, 1975; my one year of living in the U.S between birth and college. Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall”? That’s Tokyo. 1979. Dancing in the crowded discos of Roppongi on Saturday nights, sipping silly drinks like blue Hawaiians or violet fizzes. Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House”? Durham, North Carolina, 1983. Definitely the soundtrack of the house I lived in off of Duke’s east campus with my sister and our housemates from all over the world. (All of our friends joked that this album was playing every single time they came over, and I think they were probably right.) And one more, while I’m on a roll here. Fine Young Cannibals’ “The Raw and the Cooked.” That’s Bequia, West Indies, July, 1989. I was in this oasis of a place with 20 other actors, studying acting with Sandy Meisner. This happened to be the album that often played on the boombox when we took breaks or danced at night. I always go back to Bequia when I hear that album, and undoubtedly, so will all the other actors that were there with me that month.
My friend Ilse is a musician who describes her need for music as a drug. I think music is a drug. Just because you don’t drink or smoke it, doesn’t mean it isn’t mood altering to a huge degree. It influences our mood. We use it to bring us up, or to bring us down. We use it to party. We use it to ponder. We use it to exercise. We use it to escape. When you turn on your ipod, how do you choose what song you will listen to? Well, the question often is; how do you want to feel?
Ilse is one of those music-driven people who slips away in consciousness whenever music is playing. You know how that goes. Trying to maintain a conversation flow becomes an arduous task with people who get lost in music. They’re gonners. You just have to sit out the tune and hope for the best, Maybe it’s just this one song. My brother’s the same way. They’re in another world and you have to be patient to get their attention. But we all do it. Hey, I did it tonight when Henri was trying to talk to me. I got lost in New Delhi with “No Secrets”. The past was back, alive and well. New Delhi in Berkeley. 1973 in 2007. Music can do that.