Today’s Prompt: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
I was always a romantic. I remember at ten, lying on the floor of my parents’ den, on my pudgy stomach, my cheek resting on the back of my hands, knees bent, clicking my heels together over my butt, as I listened over and over to the scratchy LP of Edith Piaf singing “La Vie En Rose.” She had the most evocative sound, the sound of someone who was loved hard and truly by many men. I didn’t know squat about Edith Piaf then. I didn’t know anything about anything at ten. However, I was studying French at the private school I attended, and I strained to understand the words in the plaintive cascades of melody, as the phrases tumbled and rolled downwards, then climbed to tumble yet again. When the record ended, I stood up, walked to the stereo and picked the needle up and dropped it down at the start of the record again. Now I have all sorts of images to accompany this song in my mind, but at the time, I was a young girl living in the suburbs of southwestern Pennsylvania; Edith Piaf’s voice evoked the potential of an exotic life of travel and love and exploration. She was magical.
Karla Bonoff’s “Lose Again,” is another romantic paean to adolescent love. The previous song evokes an adorable, ten-year-old wearing a beret while dragging on a bubblegum cigarette to mimic Edith Piaf. Karla Bonoff represented actual heartbreak and the yearning to live through it. That’s just embarrassing anyway you play it. And yet, I must have listened to Karla Bonoff sing “Lose Again”, turgid by anyone’s contemporary standards, but elegaic to my ears as a lovesick high school and college student. A self-proclaimed feminist in college, I’m abashed now by the lyrics I doted on, which suggested that someone else would save and free me “from this ball and chain” of lost love. But this song was right up there with my top tunes for about 6 years. Besides, it was right in my range and I could sing along to the simple piano accompaniment. There was so much fragility and strength in her voice, the humanity clear in the cracks at the top of her range. It was the perfect romantic martyr ballad. I loved it.
What’s really odd is that for someone who loved music so much as a young woman, I’ve lost touch with my music in my “middle ages”. So to find the third song I had to turn to my “dusty” itunes catalogue. What I realized is that 60% of my music is still single female vocalists. Strong women singing. That seems to be the theme. I gravitated to the three Tracy Chapman albums in my itunes; her gravelly voice and simple guitar chord accompaniment score the stories she tells with steady strength.
I am yours if you are mine.
Is it surprising that the three stages of my life are scored by romantic music?
Stage 1: The youthful pre-pubescent longing for adventure and a life of love;
Stage 2: The damaged recovery of young and inexperienced love looking for a more permanent home;
Stage 3: The deep emotional embrace of the simple giving of oneself to another on a daily basis, which is the gift of a long and happy marriage.
A romantic to the end. Thanks for this prompt allowing me to revisit my musical heritage.