So it’s very late Tuesday…almost makes it Wednesday morning…

Today’s Theme: What do individual songs say to us?

A couple of you have raised questions that move my previous Tuesday Talks in a more pointed direction. Basically I have been asked to reflect on individual songs (or pieces of music) that conjure up particular moments or personages in my life. That got me thinking again…

The first piece of music that ever resonated, happened before I ever started school. It was one evening when I was over at the church (which was next door) with my father & mother. It was choir practice and they were assisting the choir in the anthem for the following Sunday. It was a hymn with the following line: Ride on, ride on, in majesty… Never forgot it and every time it is part of the hymn selections for a service I am attending, I think back to that first time in St. Andrew’s Presbyterian in Innisfail Alberta.

I really began to take music more seriously once I had a paper route and was able to buy a small transistor radio. I was still in elementary school and Buddy Holly (& the Crickets) released Rave On. I loved all their music but that one in particular I would sing as I rode my bike delivering the Woodstock Sentinel-Review.

The next songs of memory were both by Pat Boone: April Love & Love Letters in the Sand. Both remind me of my first steady partly because I thought it was a real thing, but it only lasted till I moved away and the farewell was rather nonchalant from her perspective (later when we re-connected, and she acknowledged she was gay, we had a good chuckle of it all). I still like April Love and it has much broader recognition/reference points now!!

High school experiences are quite convoluted for almost everyone I imagine, and my journey is likely not much different (although I was unaware I had ADHD which may even have influenced my rather erratic choices of music and thus the memories created). One friend, learning to play the ukelele constantly played Sweet Georgia Brown and every time I hear it to this day, I think of being in his apartment, hoping he would find a new tune to practice. During the same era, I tried to be romantic with special dates by buying records. Before going to the Annual At Home (MHS’ formal dance) I bought the 45rpm The Way You Look Tonight by the Lettermen. Not sure it ever meant much to the recipient, but every time I hear it I think of that evening in her parents’ house when I gave it to her (at least her mother was impressed!!). A couple of years later, with a different date, I gave an LP by Bobby Darin partly because there was a song on it that had the line: table for one. I was beginning to wonder about the relationship, but I was too nervous (or afraid) to talk about it. I think she liked the album (she never gave it back) and a few years ago my local music store found me a CD copy. Whenever I play it (or hear some other artist sing that same song) somewhat uncertain memories come back.

College had such a plethora of different songs, partly because for a couple years I had a supper show on the Student Radio at the UofA. The first that really resonated was Four Strong Winds by Ian & Sylvia because it always reminds me of when I left the UofT and perhaps my first real love and went west. Big difference: I never even asked her if she would like to come out to Alberta… Another song was the Brothers Four Yellow Bird – it reminds me to this day of a beautiful Corvette I almost bought while in Minnesota; although the song that most takes me back to that college time is the Jefferson Airplane’s Miracles. During the development of F.O.S. at the UofA there were two songs that to this day remind me of that time: Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay from Nashville Skyline and Nights in White Satin from the Moody Blues. A sidebar to the memories is the fact that we would put a record player in the window of the Student Residence we were using, crank up the sound and then play touch football on the lawn out front!! (I’ve already mentioned the impact of Glenn Yarbrough & Rod McEwen so I will leave them until later!)

As a consultant, one piece of music not only was tied to a particular program I like but it also gave me moments of reflective peace. Pachobel’s Canon was the theme to Bob Kerr’s Off the Record, but I bought its LP and would often play it when I needed to really drill down on a problem a client had and try to come up with a creative solution. To this day, when I hear that piece I go back to my times especially with the Okanagan Water Basin Study and the Salmonid Enhancement Program. Later, during my dark period, the duet from the Pearl Fishers became a similar moment for reflection and attempted restoration (I still remember the night that the organist at Grace Presbyterian in Calgary added it to a program because he knew I loved the piece and I think he felt I needed to hear it performed live).

Although I never saw the musical Phantom of the Opera there was one song in it I learned and actually tried to sing. Not necessarily a joy to any listener, but it did bring me moments of relational energy, particularly during the MTI days. More to the point at times was the theme song from JC Superstar which to this day I will occasionally break out singing when I ponder the good life I have enjoyed.

Again from my consulting days, Willie Nelson’s On the Road Again was a favourite and even now it brings back moments of driving across the prairies or through the mountains from one project to another. It also reminds me of the somewhat uncertain relational journey I took during the eighties & nineties. There is a special song by Waylon Jennings from that era too that at the time was a real favourite, but as the relationship faded, so has the song from my memory. In some ways, Connie Koldor’s Love Saskatchewan is an even better reminder of traveling on the Prairies…

In this millennium several songs have emerged as lamps on my journey, even though most of them were recorded some time ago. Glenn Yarbrough on his album with his daughter Holly has a song Every Now & Then… It brings up memories related to a special friend in a way that few songs do. Similarly, John Denver’s Dreamland Express takes me to a special place and time. And both the Kingston Trio and Harry Belafonte do versions of Try to Remember that are special: the former is done in a way that gets me thinking about the times with my kids while the latter takes me travelling.

Speaking of John Denver, there are numerous songs that bring back specific memories. Obviously one has almost become a theme song: Leaving on a Jet Plane. And because of my love for skiing, Rocky Mountain High remains a favourite. Sunshine on my Shoulders brings back memories of my first time living in Penticton (where the sun shines a lot, but in the winter one has to go up on the mountains, beyond the clouds to see it)! And in more years his version of Love Again resonates very deeply as does Perhaps Love.

Barbra Streisand has two albums that provide some wonderful pieces of music stirring a variety of memories. Her Higher Ground compilation is almost Biblical and there are three very unique pieces that can generate memories of special times/places: Water is Wide/Deep River, On Holy Ground (of my pilgrimage to Israel with Doug Rollwage) and the theme song Higher Ground. On the Partners production there are two: The Way We Were which reminds me of a couple of relationships that didn’t quite make it and I’d Want it to be You which is very personal. I should mention that Allison Lupton does a wonderful job on Water is Wide…brings back the same memories.

Speaking of religious or spiritual moments, I once developed a sermon on the deeply faith-oriented music of the 70’s & 80’s from some surprising sources. I had a Part II whereby I intended to play some of that music for the congregation. Alas, I was never invited back to the church where I preached Part I and I never had another instance where I was with a congregation long enough to deliver them both. Some time I may get out that first sermon again and go over it with you. I still think it is an intriguing finding…

There are more that I could talk about but this is getting to be a bit lengthy so I will wrap up for now. In doing so let me conclude by just mentioning a couple more: Chicago’s Addicted to You, Chris de Burgh’s In a Country Churchyard, The Dixie Chicks I Can Love You Better, John Stewart’s Midnight Wind (Miranda), Kansas’ Dust in the Wind (from my first teaching gig at the UofS in the summer of ’79), Richard Harris’ Fill the World With Love, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters (another Minnesota reminder) and the incredibly special Writing Your Love Song by Cynthia Dale.

Have a great day. Sing a song or hum a tune. Ask yourself why you picked it. Chances are it’s a piece of music that says more about you than the composer ever imagined…

In reflection,