Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Songs From My Childhood

Someone created a new "note" on facebook yesterday that completely sucked me into the lost time vortex. I spent entirely too long on answering questions about myself and well, frankly, am a bit embarrassed by my attention to it. The note, you ask? "Music That Shaped My Life."

Unless you have been residing on an Amish farm, you are probably familiar with "notes" on facebook. Maybe you have never completed one, but I know you have been tagged in one or, out of curiosity, have read one. Now, you and I sit here knowing entirely too much about each other and also about people we haven't seen since high school graduation. I think we feel as if completing more of these questionnaires somehow gives us the right to browse others' responses. Honestly, I know your life doesn't hinge upon whether you know if I have ever sat on a roof, caught a snowflake on my tongue or what my "Goth Name" would be. Black Dixie, by the way. And who in their right mind has answered "yes" to the YES/NO survey question "Have you ever used heroine?" We read this information, no, make that, obsess over this newly revealed and utter useless data like somehow all of this dictates whether we will remain friends or dreadfully delete each other in the dark of night. Regardless, we fill them out, pour over others and in our never ending quest to satisfy our own infinite curiosity, forward these suckers on hoping to have others join us in procrastinating on what we don't really want to do each day. For me, it was cleaning the kids room with a garbage bag, goodwill box and chlorox. Ok, so maybe facebook notes aren't so bad after all. I digress.

So, I receive this "facebook note" and immediately begin pouring over it. Seemed simple enough. Answer a few questions about meaningful music throughout my life. But, holy moly, did it make me work and dig into the recesses of my brain. My memory stinks. I had to search google and youtube with bits and pieces of titles and artists. For example, my need to answer the question, "A song that is linked to romance" brought only little snippets of melody and lyrics of an artist that made me swoon in high school, Terence Trent D'Arby. But despite this deep affection for him during my teenage years, I could only muster up the words, "terrence seven and song" in my search engine. And the word "seven" only burst forth because I remember being grounded for a week during my time of D'Arby love. On the first night of the grounding, a boyfriend at the time sneaked a tape of D'Arby's music into my unlocked car, which included the song "Seven More Days" in reference to my grounding. Regardless, the three word search (with misspelled first name Terence) revealed my complete artists' name and opportunity to listen once again. I took the moment to enjoy a brief walk down memory lane. Interesting how the mind connects memories. This also gives validation to why it took me so long to formulate answers to this note.

The first question on the note is: Song from childhood? I thought this was a pretty easy one. My answer: "Rainbow Connection" sung by Kermit the Frog. In fact the entirety that is the Muppets, the shows, movies, board game, stuffed animals, puppets and Christmas special are indelible in my mind. I still have the board game and Kermit in my footlocker of childhood memories in our basement storage room. The first Christmas in what I consider to be my childhood home, I was woken up by the sound of The Muppets Movie album playing on my new, deluxe record player with built-in speakers (pre-jambox days). Many days were spent singing along with my sister, also a Muppets freak. I was only 6, it was understandable. But she was 8, what was her excuse?

Never satisfied with an answer on these questionnaires, I dove into the memory files of those early days and came up with two more headliners. The soundtrack to the movie "Grease" and Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall." The movie "Grease" was released the summer before I entered 2nd grade which was 1978. I saw the movie at the old Town Centre Theater on Parris which is now Fuji Steakhouse. Notice the British spelling choice of the word "Centre" did nothing to deter its demise. This was my first exposure to a musical, even if in the movie form and I was hooked. I played this album until I knew every word, could act out every scene...people, I WAS Sandy. Occasionally, I would venture into the role of "Danny" played by John Travolta in all of his Aqua Velva, black comb and cuffed jean glory. As Danny, I would sing the song, "Sandy," while kicking a used “D” battery in lieu of the tin can that he kicked around after being ditched by Sandy at the drive-in. I know, it makes no sense. My transformation as Sandy was not complete until I donned a pair of pants a least a size too small (short and tight), my mom's high heels, scavenged a straw to use as a cigarette and sang, "Tell me about it, Stud." Wild, rebellious Sandy, a persona I thought was much cooler than goody-two-shoes Sandy. The highlight of my 7th birthday slumber party was a talent show at which every girl present sang or danced, surprise, to the song of their choice off the "Grease" album.

"Off the Wall" came a year later. Michael Jackson's first solo album was released in 1979, which was the year that marked my foray into formal jazz lessons at Lilo Ford's Dance studio. At 21, Michael Jackson was the original-skin, pre-plastic surgery, pre-pedophilia and let’s face it, less scary icon. Michael Jackson, the 1.0 version. In other words, he was still loved by millions across the globe – and not just Asia. This was also the soft spoken Michael Jackson who emitted little woo-hoo’s during his songs, which proceeded the grunting out of frustration “Billy Jean” phase. The entire dance recital that year had a nursery rhyme theme. Because our class had 10 girls in it, we were assigned the 10 Little Indians. Now how this is connected to Michael Jackson, I will never know, but our chosen performance song was to his first single off the album, “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” And let me tell you…as a little girl, dressed up in a fringed skirt and feather head piece, capped off with my mother’s inexperience at applying stage make-up, I worked that “seaweed” dance move, the kicks and step-ball-changes until my little body couldn’t work it anymore. Which might be classified as a miracle in itself given the sheer volume of face paint my mother swathed on me out of fear that my face might be lost in the glare of the stage lighting. I guess a “hooker” was better than being “faceless.”

Those are the songs of my childhood. Certainly none of them rank up there as the all-time greatest songs in history. My interpreted singing and dancing didn’t add a thing to them and may have actually lowered their credibility. But, they were my entry into what would become a life-long love of music.

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