Day 15: “The Song Remembers When”

If you’ve looked at the first two weeks of entries on this blog, you’ve probably figured out that I spend a lot of time listening to (and thinking about) music. Like most people, I like listening to music for its own sake, but I also like to listen for connections, for the way that certain songs relate to other things.

I listen for connections to characters and scenes in Shakespeare’s plays. I know that’s an odd thing to do – and even odder to admit to doing. (Actually, I may be about the only person who actually does it, but it’s what happens when you read a lot of Shakespeare, hear a lot of pop music, and think a lot about them both.)

I also listen for connections to my own life, creating personal soundtracks, of sorts, for specific memories and experiences, both good and bad: to celebrate, to remember, to reflect, to process.

I know I’m not the only person who does that: Roberta Flack sang about it in “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” Donna Summer sang about it in “On the Radio,” Elton John sang about it in “Sad Songs (Say So Much),” Trisha Yearwood sang about it in “The Song Remembers When,” and Lady Antebellum sang about it in “And the Radio Played.”

I started making one of those soundtracks a few weeks ago, because of an experience that I wanted to remember (and that I needed to process). I found a couple dozen songs that touched on different elements of the experience, but none that really captured it.

Then I found the perfect one – a simple, vulnerable ballad by Levi Kreis that felt and sounded like he’d reached into my heart and looked into my mind and distilled everything he found into a song. I played it about twenty-five times the first week after I heard it, and even though it’s no longer in heavy rotation on my iPod, I think it means more to me now than it did the first time I heard it, because I understand the song – and probably myself – better now than I did then. And isn’t that part of the point of art: understanding ourselves and other people (and our connections with them) better than we did before?

Regardless of the reason that I make the next soundtrack (or the any of the ones that I make after that), I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the moments when I find those perfect songs – the ones that makes the celebrations seem a little bigger, the remembrances seem a little sharper, the reflections seem a little deeper, or the processing seem just a little easier – or the connections I feel every time I listen to them.


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