In six songs, tell us about your life.
That is the challenge we issued, and, my goodness, how you’ve responded! We are thrilled and grateful with how enthusiastically this series has been received. Thank you!
Some quick housekeeping:
We are currently booked out through September. We’d still love for you to participate, but please know it may be a while before we can feature your soundtrack. We don’t want to dissuade you though, because we may have some cancellations, but we wanted to give you that heads up. If you want to join in, please do! We’ll find a way to feature everyone by the end of the year, even if we have to do a mega-volume or two. The submission form is HERE on Google Docs.
If you have already expressed interest, you should have received an email from either me, Michelle or Jennie to the email associated with your comment. If you haven’t, check your spam folder; and if you still haven’t, shoot me an email at runningonsober at gmail, as we may have an old address for you. Feel free to ask us any questions in the comments below.
Okay, back to the challenge:
If you are a new visitor, welcome! Michelle, Jennie and I challenged our guests to tell us their life stories: “The project is simple, though maybe not easy: Tell us a story–your story–in six songs. And then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song.” The series runs every Monday, at least through September. You are welcome to check out our past volumes.
Our guests this week are:
Sheena from Not a Punk Rocker and Jean from UnPickled. I happen to think they’re both pretty awesome, and I love their raw and honest (and often very funny) posts. I’m so happy to have Sheena and Jean here today! Please be sure to leave them some love in the comments, and stop by their blogs to say hello.
Enjoy this week’s “Life in 6 Songs” everyone!
You remember these, right? Everyone better say yes. How about using a pencil to spin the little dials around? Via Pixabay.com, public domain.
Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):
“When I Fall in Love” by Nat King Cole
The good memories I have of my childhood were in the sanctuary of my grandparents’ house. Seeing certain items remind me of those days, but specific smells and music really put me back in those moments. This reminds me of being there, listening to Frank, Rosemary, Mel and Etta on their 8-track player.
With these artists, I could concentrate on the voices and how they worked with the big bands and orchestras vs. a cacophony of synthesizers.
“Rain on the Scarecrow” by John Cougar Mellencamp
I remember the video for this song and the tie-in to Farm Aid. It was my first glimpse at using music to speak up for a cause, and it caught my attention because of the words and not just that I liked JCM at the time:
The crops we grew last summer weren’t enough to pay the loans
Couldn’t buy the seed to plant this spring and the Farmers Bank foreclosed
Called my old friend Schepman up to auction off the land
He said John it’s just my job and I hope you understand
Hey calling it your job ol’ hoss sure don’t make it right
But if you want me to I’ll say a prayer for your soul tonight
“We Are the World” definitely had its message, but this one struck me hard. I grew up in a rural area where farms were getting to be few and far between. Thus began my first thoughts of “rebellion” in the name of causes and change.
“Lake of Fire” by Nirvana
The Seattle sound hit it big when I was in high school, so of course everyone had to be “really into grunge”. My depression and other issues continued to get worse during this time (almost considered “Lithium” here). I was always questioning what was the point of life and started wondering if death was the only escape to it all.
Now the people cry and the people moan
And they look for a dry place to call their home
And try to find some place to rest their bones
While the angels and the devils
Fight to claim them for their own
This song, as shown on “MTV Unplugged”, was beautifully done. I wonder what music would be like today if Kurt Cobain was still here?
“Closing Time” by Semisonic
This gets quoted whenever someone has a major life change, but there’s a reason why.
Every new beginning is some other beginning’s end.
So far we are still willing to let some things end in search of new beginnings even with the risk involved.
The line “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” also stands out because at some times, before and after having the kid, I didn’t always have a home to go to. Plenty of nights I was at the mercy of friends with couches.
I also considered “Everything Falls Apart” by Dog’s Eye View and “Bad Reputation” by Freedy Johnston. I was lost–emotionally and sometimes mentally–during this time, and I was constantly having to explain where I was and how I got there.
“Someone Saved My Life Tonight” by Elton John
I relate this song to the moments I did finally take that leap and leave an abusive relationship, and then years later a destructive one. With all that happened, I had those in my life who thought it was “better” to stay in these situations than be a single parent because of “how it looks”.
The someone who saved me? The kid. I’ve said before he didn’t even realize what he was doing, but without him I would have stayed. Looking out for his life saved mine.
“Beyond the Sea” by Robbie Williams
Being near the ocean brings me a sense of peace and serenity; it also fills me with energy from the activity provided by nature: birds swooping, waves crashing, the tides shifting.
“Beyond the Sea” is a song about love and the sea, though not quite about love for the sea, but that’s OK. It evokes enough of an image, and that works for me. I think we figured out, I am meant to be near the water.
Maybe I’ll eventually find love again, maybe not. I know I will be OK either way.
I prefer the Bobby Darrin version, but when Finding Nemo came out in the theaters, my son was so entranced by the Robbie Williams version during the credits we ended up buying that one too.
Bonus Song #7 (If you could wrap up your life story in ONE SONG, or if you have a personal theme song, or even a song you want played at your funeral, what would that song be and why?):
“Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon
This is off of the album The Wind which he kept recording as his health went into a drastic decline. My mother had time to plan her funeral, so we had to play “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” neither of which my brother or I can really listen to now 15 years later.
It will be up to my son if he wants to have a funeral for me or not (it’s about his needs at that point, not mine,) so if he wants music this would be a good one to play.
* Sheena blogs at Not a Punk Rocker. She is from Virginia.
“Let It Be” by the Beatles (The 70′s, my childhood)
I am seven and visiting my uncle’s farm, where my six older cousins represent all that is cool and worldly. They know how to ride horses, drive tractors, bake bread, and play guitar. I want ever so much to grow up and have breasts and be like them. One afternoon I come into the house — To pee? To steal a fresh bun from the counter? It had to be something important to bring me inside from their glorious farmyard of hiding places, hay bales, animals, and freedom – and I hear someone playing guitar and singing a song–a real song–not a church song but a song from the radio, “Let It Be.” I am fascinated. I did not know a person could just pick up an instrument and start playing and singing a Beatles song. The unimaginable had just become possible. It’s the first time I realized I can just DO things, and anything is possible. I sit at her feet and worship. I am hooked for life on music and possibilities.
The girls in this video remind me of her playing that day:
“Be My Number Two” by Joe Jackson (The 80′s, high school and falling in love)
I’m seventeen and every song perfectly describes my life somehow. Every party has its own soundtrack, every drama is summed up by a lyric, and I have time to listen over and over again to the cassettes in my Sony Walkman while I brood and write and wait for my life to begin. I fall madly in love with a be-mulleted blonde named Ross who arrives in my Grade 12 social class like a god from above. Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp cassette loops endlessly in his (second-hand) ‘77 Mustang and I learn every word to every song on the long drives out to his parent’s acreage for fondue suppers.
Jackson’s “Be My Number Two” breaks my heart with its opening piano riff and perfectly sad lyrics. I can’t possibly know that thirty years later Ross and I will still be together – children grown, grandchild on the way, loving and grateful for one another. Our life will not be perfect, yet all we dream of and more.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (The 90′s, which I missed entirely)
I am a young mom with three sons in four years. I am exhausted, anxious, and intent on doing things right. My husband and I own a business, but I do most of my work from home between play dough, play dates, and play school. I wear the same pair of denim overalls every day. One day I hear that rock legend Kurt Cobain has died and I have no idea who he is. They say he created the grunge movement and I don’t know what that is, either. I know all the lyrics to the Aladdin soundtrack and every song on the Sharon, Lois, and Bram cassette in my green minivan, but I am completely out of touch with the world. I am most upset to realize that Nirvana’s big hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a mystery to me. ME! The queen of music and lyrics has become lost inside my own home. Years later, YEARS later, I will seek out “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to see what I missed: “Here we are, entertain us!” Ooooooh, THAT song. Well, I know THAT song. I just didn’t realize THAT was the song.
“Short Skirt, Long Jacket” by Cake (The New Millenium, career years)
Our kids are all in school, and I have my days free to take on the world. I burst out of the gates from early mommyhood into the fresh air of a world that is all about me from 8 AM -3 PM daily. I send the kids off on the school bus and await them when they return, but in between I am taking on the world and doing every job, task, opportunity and challenge that comes my way with a voracious appetite for achievement and success. I am the girl in the “short skirt and the long jacket,” touring the facility and picking up slack. Instead of pulling me aside and making gentle inquiries as to my mental health, the world reinforces my over-achieving behaviour and I receive impressive awards, news coverage and even make the cover of a national magazine. I love my life and manage to keep my insecurities and weaknesses under wraps, hidden from the world. I begin the innocent habit of sipping wine at night to take the edge off and cuddle with my kiddos and handsome husband to watch some family tv, and I feel like life is as perfect as it can be . . . but something dark looms.
“The Obvious Child” by Paul Simon (Settling into my 40′s . . . and myself)
Some people say a lie is just a lie and I say, “Why deny the obvious, child? Why deny the obvious, child?” I share this song to represent coming to terms with how my perfect, fabulous, amazing life was slowly going off the rails. How could something be so wrong when everything looked so right, was heralded as good, and fit the mold of success and perfection? I had developed a slow and steady dependence on alcohol that was quietly becoming a burden and despite my daily heroics of being utterly excellent at everything. I was crumbling with the shame of this terrible secret. A lie is just a lie. Why deny the obvious? I needed to quit, so I quit. No one knew my secret – that I was an alcoholic OR that I had quietly gotten sober.
I started to write about it [at her blog UnPickled] and talk about it [on The Bubble Hour - a podcast Jean co-produces] and now, well, the world knows.
(PS – Paul Simon is a genius – every song he write is perfect lyrically and musically. Every single song. Download Graceland and close your eyes while you listen to that whole album. Genius.)
“Hold On” by Alabama Shakes (The future…)
Late 40s, soon to be a granny, I am a sinewy old girl who fights for my good health. I’m not a natural beauty but I know how to fluff my hair and wear mascara and I clean up pretty well. In the summer months I run the hillside paths near my home – and by run I mean shuffle and sweat to music. Everything about this song makes me smile – the abandon that Miss Brittney plays and sings with, the perfect bass line, the crisp lyrics, and the message. C’mon girl, you gotta get back up. You gotta hold on. I have another 40 or so years ahead, and I’m embarking on the next chapter with all of the skill and energy that propelled me in the past, plus all of the perspective and healing that recovery has brought into my life. I wish this for everyone who hurts, who struggles, who fucks-up. Hold on. You gotta hold on.
Bonus song #7:
“Company” by Rickie Lee Jones
Funeral song . . . teachable moment (ie, “The Dance,” “What a Wonderful World,” etc.) or blatant emotional fuckery? I’ll go for the later – I want audible sobbing at my funeral!
I’m going for “Company” by the fabulous Rickie Lee Jones (her 1979 album unlocked my words and soul – one of the great songwriters of our time)
I’ll remember you too clearly
But I’ll survive another day
Conversations to share
When there’s no one there
I’ll imagine what you’d say
* Visit Jean at her personal blog UnPickled , or check out her podcast The Bubble Hour. Jean is from Alberta, Canada.
Thanks again for being our guests, Sheena and Jean!