In six songs, tell us about your life.
By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We 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 through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.
Our special guests this week are:
Karen (aka Hippie) from Hippie Cahier and Mary from A Wilderness of Words. You know how some writers inspire you with the way they use words to bend and paint and create an entirely new and sparkly universe? How they make you want to be a better writer or artist? How you just feel kinda lucky to have crossed paths with them because they’re just that awesome? Well that’s how Karen and Mary make me feel. Not only can these ladies write, but I’m utterly convinced they have music in their blood. Obviously, I’m a big Karen and Mary fan. I know you will be too, so if you’re not following them, stop what you’re doing and go follow them right now. But come back! It’s easy to get lost in Karen’s Hyperbole and in Mary’s Wilderness of Words.
Enjoy this week’s “Life in 6 Songs” everyone!
Karen (from Hippie Cahier)
Like anyone who is likely to be reading this, there is too much music in my head, in my heart, in my soul, and in my various collections for this to be a simple exercise. What follows is not a list of my favorite songs or my favorite artists or my favorite genres. It’s the result of a lot of thinking, hunting, gathering, and the culling of pages and pages of handwritten thoughts to arrive at a set that describes a little of the story of my life so far.
With the exception of the first song, I tried to find official videos or at least a video of a performer and not a personal video created by a fan. That eliminated many songs by artists who don’t have much of an official YouTube presence, such as Patty Griffin, Antje Duvekot, The Subdudes, and NRBQ.
I also avoided reading other participants’ lists because when I started to look at them, I saw songs that I’d been considering. Although sometimes that was disappointing, I’m happy to know we are musical kindred spirits. Any duplication you see here of someone else’s choices is either coincidental or I decided it was significant enough to me to keep it anyway.
I’m looking forward to going back to see where my choices coincide with others’.
This was such an enjoyable project. Thank you for including me!
And now, take six:
Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):
“Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies (1969)
I was in first grade when this song came out. After-school television was a big thing for my generation. We came home to snacks and, beginning in 1971, on our local UHF channel a man named Captain Chesapeake and his sea monster Mondy hosted cartoons like Speed Racer and re-runs of shows like The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island.
I chose this video of a song from a 1968 cartoon called The Archie Show, which someone put together with images of Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. I have always been more Mary Ann than Ginger.
“Steal My Sunshine” by Len (1999)
Technically, this song came out long after my adolescence. I didn’t even know about it until a few years ago. It’s just silly and fun, as adolescence should be, but it’s also true on a metaphorical level, especially when an energy vampire is bringing me down.
I have always loved the beach and as a teenager I dreamed of living on the beach. As a young adult I lived a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. For four fabulous years, I wore a bikini almost every day.
Two things I would change about this video: I’d include the line from the radio version where someone shouts out, “KAREN, I LOVE YOU!” and I’d get rid of that Yankees cap.
If you’re a Yankees fan, bygones. If you’re not a Yankees fan, well then, you catch my drift.
“Coming Around Again/Itsy Bitsy Spider” Carly Simon (1989)
Chronologically re-syncing with my life, this performance was recorded at one of my favorite places (Martha’s Vineyard) at one of my favorite times of my life. I’ve worn a variety of personal and professional hats, but the thing I am most proud of is being a mom. Whenever I hear this, I remember my little ones with diapers full of sand from Uncle Seth’s pond or Lambert’s Cove Beach. Yes, I smiled wistfully as I typed that.
I’m still holding out hope that it will someday be revealed that Carly Simon is my mother or my much older sister. It would explain a lot.
“Compass Point” by Lowen and Navarro (c. 1993)
Then a lot of stuff happened, some of it magic, some of it tragic. Even if it were worth telling, it’s been a long life so there’s lots to tell. Don’t nobody got time for that.
Look for more in the upcoming unauthorized autobiography, Hippie Cahier: The Missing Years. Be sure to check the foreword, wherein I apologize to John Prine for removing “Quit Hollerin’ At Me” from my six songs list. There was this whole thing about life as an INFJ, and I wasn’t sure that was interesting to a broad population.
Looking back I realize how different my life is than what I thought it would be, which is something most of us experience. It’s still true that “the road is never-ending (and) my compass point is bending.” That’s what makes the ride worthwhile.
“Fighter” by Christina Aguilera (2002)
This song is a perennial in my workout playlist, usually at about the spot where push-ups come into my routine. It’s a productive reminder to be grateful for hard lessons learned and a means of channeling negative emotions into a feeling of power. I am grateful to a number of people whose behavior had a negative impact on my life, because they are now responsible for my upper body strength.
“Best Day of My Life” by American Authors (2013)
Life has been just as good to me and just as hard for me as it has been for anyone else. The best I can do in the hard times is to keep believing that each day has the potential to be a great one, or at least better than the day before. And in the good times, I am happy to celebrate each day as the best day of my life. I think this is a good one for the (almost) finale.
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?):
“Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls (1989)
I have consistently maintained that I am consistently inconsistent and that I’m not even close to having answers for myself, let alone anyone else. I might also have chosen James Taylor’s “Secret Of Life” for a bonus song, because I think there’s a similar message.
In the end, I flipped a coin and the Indigo Girls won.
* Karen blogs at Hippie Cahier. She is from The United States.
Mary (from A Wilderness of Words)
“The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright (Vetiver version)
I grew up always close to water. When we lived in Wanakena, there was a river below the hill with a kid-friendly beach and a dock with a diving board. When we moved to Star Lake, the lake was the epicenter of our universe. My father taught us how to swim. Knowing how to swim was important to him, and my siblings and I (seven of us, total) took his lessons to heart. We swam like fish through those summer months; we almost grew fins and a tail. The first time I heard this song, I saw the sun on the lake and felt the water slapping against my skin again.
Bonus: The video with this version is positively gleeful to watch. It makes me want to try my hand at longboarding.
“Lippy Kids” by Elbow
My teen years were angsty. I was an outlier (though I didn’t know the word, then), without a connection to place, constantly feeling like I wasn’t a part of the world I found myself living in. I hated the smallness of the school, the town, and the people. There was no poetry or color. I wanted large. I wanted more. I was probably surly a lot. This song makes me smile in recognition. Looking back, I wasn’t the only one hanging out on Greco’s porch with no place to go, smoking cigarettes and cursing.
“Mad World” by Tears for Fears (Gary Jules version)
I got the hell out of Dodge (read: Star Lake, NY) as soon as I graduated from high school. I tried out a few places over the next few years – predominantly Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (too hot, too many retirees), and Boulder, Colorado (great place, made a few good friends, but ultimately it was too dry, too snowy, too far from water). I was still trying to figure out who I wanted to be. People were strange. I was strange. And, then, here came Tears for Fears with an anthem for exactly how I felt. Bless their hearts.
“Open Arms” by Elbow
In spite of trying to put distance between myself and the place I came from, there were times when my heart felt frayed, and I needed the people who knew me, if not best, at least the longest. I have always had a complicated relationship with my parents and my siblings. For all our differences and our grievances, my family is where I turned when I felt lost. This song (yes, I know I have included two Elbow songs – I really like them) sums up for me why that it is.
“This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads (Sean Hayes version)
I have always loved summer best. For a long time I measured my life by summers. It was summer when I drove from Colorado back to Dodge to attend my brother’s wedding. The evening before the wedding, I met my brother’s best man, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Three years later, on another summer day, we were married beneath the apple trees in a friend’s back yard. A job brought us to Rhode Island, but I knew that the place I needed to be was with the man. I wasn’t wrong.
“Lullaby” by Dixie Chicks
A true thing about me: I have one child. A boy I have been in love with for all of time and then some. He is the icing on the cake of my life. He is my best job ever. I could go on ad nauseam, but I’ll let the Dixie Chicks tell you how I feel. They have a sweet tune and better words.
Bonus song #7:
“Counting Stars” by One Republic
This is where I’ve got to. Mostly happy, most of the time. Persistently doing my own thing, even when it’s not the right thing or might even be the wrong thing. It seems to be working so far. Time will tell.
* Mary blogs at A Wilderness of Words. She currently lives in Rhode Island, USA.
Thanks again for being our guests, Karen and Mary!