Without music, life would be a mistake (Nietzche)
Music is as necessary to me as air. Not a day goes by that is not made better by soothing tones, moving rhythms or lyrics that touch my heart. My tastes are quite eclectic and include classical, pop, all shades of rock including heavy metal, jazz, R&B, musical theater and rap/hip hop. There are myriad songs or pieces that have touched me in some way, that remind me of a particular time or place, a person, a relationship, a feeling. But it is actually an entire genre rather than a song that has stayed with me throughout my life, from my earliest musical recollections till today: country music.
When I was five, my parents divorced. My mom and I moved to a small apartment. Every morning, as we prepared for school and work, she used to turn on the radio in the kitchen and the station was always country music. I fell in love without being aware, especially with the storytelling. Sometimes the songs made me laugh, more often, they made me cry. Music --all music but particularly a good country song -- has had the ability to move me to tears (both happy and sad) since those early days of my childhood.
The first country song I remember crying to every time I heard it on the radio was Spring by Tanya Tucker. The lines that always made me burst into tears were: Momma don't go away/And leave me all alone/Momma said to the welfare lady/Find my child a good home. (There is a happy ending. Although Momma dies and Spring grows up in an orphanage, she finds love and gets married to her best friend from the orphanage in the end. :-)
One song that made my mother laugh hysterically when she heard me sing it was Lucille by Kenny Rogers. The chorus is You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille/With four hungry children and a crop in the field..." I, however, thought he was saying "400 children and a crop in the field." My mother cried she laughed so hard before saying, "400 children? I guess she did leave. I'm surprised she's not dead."
I could be heard singing other country songs throughout the 70s and 80s, along with all the other types of music that touched my soul in those years. In the 90s, life got crazy as I married, lost my daddy, had a child, bought a house, a car and started my career in education. It wasn't until 2001, when I was driving on 95 North heading home from a conference in DC that I found a country station for the first time in years. A new Alan Jackson song came on. I had to pull over because I couldn't stop weeping.The first lines were:
Where were you when the world stopped turnin'/that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children/or workin' on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke/risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor/or did you just sit down and cry?
I was in a classroom, teaching that day - where I remained, consoling my students as fear and grief overwhelmed them, until the bell rang at 3:00 pm and I could finally speed to my son’s school and hug him close and take him home. My heart broke when he said so many parents had come to get their children early and he had wondered why I hadn't come sooner.
I cry every single time I hear that song.
After finding that station, I renewed my love of country. Until they took it off the air last fall, 94.7 NY Country was my go to radio station. Now, I'm all classical or "music from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s" when I have the radio on. But, more often than not, I put on one of my Playlists loaded with country music.
Over the last two decades, I have amassed a treasure trove of country songs that have made me feel not only joy or sadness, but also, simply, connected. We, humanity, share a lot of the same basic life experiences - love; lust; longing; anger; sadness; loss; loneliness; betrayal; family - the good, the bad and the ugly; work woes; illness; death. Country music has it all.
I guess I love country because so often it says exactly what I feel or felt or need to hear...or simply tells a great story that feels familiar or fun. I have it on in the bathroom as I shower, the kitchen as I cook, the living room as I clean, the car as I drive. I take it with me everywhere - it is a part of who I am.