Day 3, Writing 101 – Write about the three most important songs in your life
Oh nuts, three songs over the course of my whole life to date? That might be impossible to do. In fact, I spent about an hour considering the question and there’s no way on earth that I can narrow it down to three so I am going to talk about songs, albums or artists that made a mark on me instead.
Music was a big part of our family life when I was growing up. Mom played piano. Dad played the organ, double bass, and trumpet. They had matching ukuleles. My big brother first played piano and switched to guitar. I started on piano but switched to organ, which I stayed with into my early 20s. I sang in choirs, played alto recorder in a club and in the orph xylophone club during elementary school. I added trumpet and French horn in my teens.
My parents had a robust collection of record albums and a top-notch sound system to play them on. My brother had a collection of albums too. By the time I was old enough and interested in pop music, cassettes played in ghetto blasters and walkmans were the modern choice. Good thing too because as the youngest in the household, I never got to pick what we listened to.
I had only two records – April Wine, Nature of the Beast, I think, which my brother bought me for my birthday or Christmas because HE wanted it. I think I played it once before it migrated to his bedroom. The next album he got me was one that I asked for – The Who’s Greatest Hits 1983.
Our house was filled with country music mostly, and then heavy metal when my brother took over the turn table after school and before our parents got home.
We watched variety shows that included acts like the Irish Rovers, John Denver, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Gatlin Brothers and Oakridge Boys. My dad would often sing along as loudly as the group on-screen and he would find a harmony if he didn’t know the words and hum it out. I liked that; he could anticipate where a melody was headed and continue to be a part of the song even though he didn’t actually know it.
Going back further, my dad was an inspirational whistler, I suppose, in part because of his years as a trumpet lead in a renowned marching band. I mean, he could hit notes that most people can’t sing and he could string runs effortlessly. I loved it. He taught me to whistle when I was very young. I’m going to guess that I was five or six.
One summer we went down through the north-western USA on a camping holiday sometime around 1976 to 1978 I think. I remember that we went to a mall, likely to stock up on groceries and other necessities. There was a gazebo set up in the middle of the mall with a speaker system and I was allowed to sit there while my folks did errands. A man stood in the gazebo with a microphone and whistled songs including a Roger Whittaker tune, New World in the Morning. I was obsessed. I could have sat there all day. But my favourite tune by him is… Durham Town.
Again, my dad would sing his heart out to that tune. I liked that, hearing him sing.
I rebelled hard against the country genre when I hit my teens. Like almost had a gag reflex to it until I was close to 30 and living in southern Alberta. (When in southern, rural Alberta… do as they do! Life is definitely more fun that way.)
Anyway, I fell in love with acts like The Cure, Tears for Fears, A-Ha, Cindy Lauper, Boy George, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Men Without Hats, Crowded House, Midnight Oil, Depeche Mode and others.
I loved music from the 1960s and my friends and I really dug into that era’s culture as much as we could (this was before Internet so not sure how we dug into it but we tried) and then…
I heard Where the Streets Have No Name (1987) by U2. I’d found my musical advocate. I was 15. Every other band on the planet could fall away so far as I cared. I’ve written about my affection for the music and the band before so I won’t wax on here again.
In my late teens and 20s, I got into folk roots. I started spending more and more time in the wilderness and away from pop culture. As long as someone had an acoustic guitar and everyone could sing along, we had the best campfire parties. Often this involved singing songs from the 1960s and 70s or turning rock songs folksie by how we performed them.
I started to discover Canadian acts and develop an appreciation for how various sub-cultures within Canada express themselves through music. I especially liked Celtic beat bands and female artists like Spirit of the West, Blue Rodeo, Sarah McLachlan, Great Big Sea, Jann Arden, Loreena Mckennitt …
Golly I could go on and on. Today… Mumford and Sons, FUN, Imagine Dragons, Brandi Carlile, OneRepublic, Jon and Roy, Coldplay… and always, always, U2 (the tour starts in a month WHOOPeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!)
Three songs? Are you kidding? Who came up with that writing challenge?
I’d like to think I have a most eclectic music collection today. I have a bit of everything from world beats to rock ‘n roll, alternative to bluegrass and powwow to opera. I even have some (previously vomit-inducing) country tunes on my play list, although honestly, I’m still a bit shy to admit that. Feels like I caved in on my original teen rebellion but who doesn’t love Johnny Reid!
The strangest thing has begun to happen just lately. I have started waking up to music only to discover that there is no music playing in the room. It happened two mornings ago. I was roused to Nate Ruess singing Nothing Without Love. I opened my eyes as the music faded away. Now that’s a gift, isn’t it?!