Yesterday I read an article in Mothering magazine by the mother of a 13 year old boy. She shared the story of how she and her son were connected by music; as a baby they listened to all the cheesey little kid music (how I fear the day Ethan wants to go to a Wiggles concert) and once he grew into that "ugh, my mom is so freaking lame" teenager, she delved into the world of his musical tastes, at the same time sharing with him her favorite songs from her own childhood and adolescence. This, she claims, is how they maintained a close bond during those years when children typically pull away from their parents with all the force of opposing magnets ends.
It made me think about the impact of music on my life, especially in those years I spent pretty much stuck up in my room, being a sullen and moody only child and avoiding contact with my own parents. Now, the mid to late 80's didn't really offer a plethora of quality musical choices, by my recollection. We went from Madonna & Duran Duran to Bon Jovi & Guns N Roses. But somehow I found a way to make music a cornerstone of my sense of self & identity.
I kept a notebook of song lyrics that I felt adequately captured my angst and listened avidly to the words to the songs I loved to be sure that I knew them all by heart. It always floors me when Husband says he likes a song, but doesn't know more than two words of it. Just liking the beat or the music means nothing to me--I need to know what the song is about and whether it speaks to my life and my experience; if not, I can't really ever love the song. I can listen and enjoy it, but the songs that stay with me forever are songs that I find something in, something that reminds me of my own life, either through lyrics or the circumstances of where/when/why I first heard it, etc.
So I've been thinking--what are the songs/who are the artists that I will want to share with my son when he is old enough? So, in very "High Fidelity" style, here are "My Top Ten Songs/Artists to Share with Ethan"...
1. U2--"Pride in the Name of Love" & "One" in particular--from the time I was in high school until today Bono's voice and lyrics are simply ever present. Edge's guitar riffs have dictated an entire generation of musical influence and I am willing to bet that Ethan will be listening to u2's music during his own teen years, even without my intervention. I want Ethan to know that music can be more than a good beat and bubble gum lyrics; that it can have a conscience and motivate people to try to change the world. I think U2's music is a fairly pure example of this (well, maybe with the exception of "Discotheque", but whatever...)
2. David Bowie/Freddie Mercury--"Under Pressure" Although I never knew the song even existed until Vanilla Ice ripped off the beat for "Ice Ice Baby" (such a sad, sad confession), there is something about Mercury's voice as he croons, "Can't we give ourselves one more chance? Why can't we give love just one more chance?" that makes my eyes water and my heart soar. His voice is amazing and paired with Bowie's it is simply musical poetry. I want Ethan to be moved by the sound of voices mingling and creating a whole new sound.
3. Cold Play--"Fix You" & "Clocks" I wrote a post a few months ago about how "Fix You" was sort of the soundtrack of my pregnancy--about wanting to protect and shield a loved one from all that could hurt in this life. The opening piano of "Clocks" is the music that Husband and I entered our wedding reception to, down a gorgeous marble staircase; we agonized over what little snippet of music would represent us as a couple, making our grand entrance for the first time as husband and wife. Hopefully Ethan will realize that music stays with you; hearing a particular song brings you back to a specific moment in time--I hope he has those extraordinary moments and the pathway back to them that music can be.
4. Indigo Girls--"Galileo", "Closer to Fine" & "Virginia Wolff" He may not dig these three; admittedly, you don't see a ton of dudes rocking it at an Indigo Girls concert. But in the interest of focusing on songs that have meant a lot to me, I suppose I can't leave them out. The idea that "each life has it's place" and that we are all connected to each other in some way through history or inspiration has always moved me and made me feel both teeny tiny in this world and at the same time, a significant part of its very fabric. I want Ethan to feel that.
5. Duran Duran "Planet Earth" Simply one of the first songs and the first band I remember ever really liking. I was one of those Duran Duran freaks in the 80's to the Nth degree. I could have started a college fund for Ethan with all the money I spent on magazines and British import tapes and LPs. He should know Duran Duran so he understands why he has to apply for scholarships and work study to pay for his tuition.
6. Peter Gabriel "Salisbury Hill" & "Biko" The first one, while I always loved it, makes it onto my list because it was on the radio the afternoon I left the hospital, leaving Ethan behind in the NICU. The line, "'Son,' he said, 'Grab your things, I've come to take you home'" reduced me to a little puddle of tears at the thought that I was driving away from my baby. To this day, I am grateful that I was so preoccupied with the pain of the c-section and the frustration of pumping my seemingly non-existant breastmilk that I never truly grasped how gut-wrenching it was to be separated from Ethan during those seven days.
"Biko" makes the list for the same reason that U2 is on it--a song about Stephen Biko, and anti-Apartheid activist, Gabriel's song helped to highlight such a hideous practice to an audience that may not have ever learned of it otherwise. Let's face it, there was no chapter on Apartheid in our social studies books in high school--without the music I listened to, I would never have known. I remember playing this song for my "Modern World Literature" class of Honors Juniors several years ago. We listened to it as we read "Cry, the Beloved Country" early in the year. At the year-end course evaluations most students cited this song's lyrics as some of the most powerful and memorable literature of the year. Several students in the class joined Amnesty International after I played this song for them. Enough said.
7. 10,000 Maniacs "These are Days" The quintessential nostalgia song, "Never before and never since, I promise, has the whole world been as warm as this". It is a song about pure joy and elation. I hear it in my mind when I think of any number of happy memories in my life. Husband used it as part of our rehearsal dinner slide show. Just the opening beat makes my heart race with joy.
8. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" You might know it as the music from the Dr. Mark Green's death scene on ER. It is the soundtrack of my wedding and honeymoon--two classic and beautiful songs melded together with a island feeling. What's not to love?
9. Bee Gees and/or Credence Clearwater Revival--Pretty much anything by either. This is a shout-out to the musical tastes of my parents in the 70's. We are all influenced, as small children, by the music our parents listen to. How they managed to cram both the disco of the BeeGees and the southern-fried rock of CCR into my consciousness is beyond me, but I know the lyrics of almost every song either group ever produced and would be hard-pressed to say which I'd rather listen to.
10. Sting--all of it. I hope that Sting's music will transcend time and be as cool when Ethan's a teenager as it has been in my generation. How can I not choose Sting? I'm an English teacher and Sting's lyrics are poetry, plain and simple. Sometimes I don't even hear the music when listening to his songs.
So there they are--my top 10. Hopefully someday, when Ethan hits that wall of adolescence and wants to get as far away from me as possible, I will be able to find a pathway to him through these songs/artists and whatever is passing for music thirteen years from now.