Have you been near me when the music comes on? Have I left you midsentence at the door, the table, the restroom when we’re out and the music comes on? If not, we’ve never been out together, because I can guarantee you that’s a common occurrence.
Nancy, having enjoyed Rolling Stone’s recent story where artists listed the songs that had overarching influence on their lives, asked a few bloggers to do the same. This was hard. I’m a music lover; my enjoyment crosses genres and there’s usually a story behind WHY I like each song. But, this was supposed to be more. This was supposed to be about the songs that made me who I am, not just the ones (and there are so many) that make me recall a memory or make me happy — the ones that are responsible for who I am today. Prince’s power is undeniable.
So, to make a list of (just) 10 songs that made me or are my life’s soundtrack? Man. I’m still looking at the ones that made the final cut like do you belong here? Is the story of how you make me feel better than the ones that didn’t make it? I had to make myself stop because otherwise the list would be infinite. Cutting Diana Ross made my head hurt and I doubt she’ll ever forgive me.
Funkadelic – One Nation Under a Groove
Dance your way out of your constrictions. I remember it so clearly: the Halloween party in the basement when I was 12. I liked Reginald and he was ignoring me, talking instead to Chelle. He tried to kiss her and she pushed him and left. Just as this song came on he tried to ask me something, finally, and I walked away, fast. I literally hear “feet don’t fail me now” in my head when I need to get out of situations.
Chuck Brown – Moody’s Mood
If you don’t know about Chuck Brown or go-go, I can’t help you (not right now. Google is your friend when I am not). There is genuinely no way to count the number of times I saw Chuck Brown perform live, in clubs, at outdoor festivals in parks, on the street, ON A BOAT. The influence on my life is unparalleled by any other artist, truly. Chuck is who I listen to on bad days and good. There are two clips. The first is the specific song I’ve listed. The other is part of a live show, because you need to experience, albeit visually, what the crowd was like. It would be tight. It would be hot. And no one would care. At 9:43 in the second one, that call and response from the crowd? Nothing like it. Listen to the congos. The horns. You’re welcome.
Gladys Knight and the Pips – I’ve Got to Use My Imagination
She’s talking about love loss, but this is my life’s theme song when there’s anything bad going on. I’ve got to use my imagination. Keep on keepin’ on. (It was hard not to choose a song from the Claudine soundtrack. Listen, if you haven’t seen that movie or don’t know Curtis Mayfield’s score for it, just, ugh. Google and YouTube, y’all.)
Prince – Let’s Go Crazy
I need to say what? Here, have this.
Michael Jackson – PYT
Because I am. Always and forever.
Whitney Houston – Didn’t We Almost Have It All
1987. Sitting in my bedroom, in the dark, knees to my chest, swaying. I was captivated by her voice and her lyrics fed my teenage love angst. Plus, this version she did live? It is still everything.
Nat King Cole – Pretend
Pretend you’re happy when you’re blue. My husband (then boyfriend) first played this for me after I’d had a bad day at work. Then, when we were house hunting and got outbid repeatedly, it would find its way into my ears. It flits through my mind still, immediately, when things are rough. I flash back to that first time he played it, and it makes me smile.
DeeeLite – Groove Is In The Heart
Fake IDs in clubs and happiness and thoughts of moving out, far far away. This is high school, the cusp of graduating and starting a life.
Dawn Penn – No, No, No
When my husband and I were first dating, there was a club that had three levels, with different types of music on each floor. We’d always find our way to the reggae room and this would come on nearly every time. While the lyrics are not compatible with a lasting relationship, the rhythm is enough to make you not pay attention to that. My husband has this dance he does, see, when he thinks I’m not looking (or maybe he knows I am), and, well, I can’t even finish my sentence. He will do that dance and I’m transported.
Commodores – Easy
My relationship with the Commodores is laid out right here. But here’s the gist: I thought my father was Lionel Richie. This was my childhood, all day. The records are mine when he’s gone.
BONUSES (Read: I can’t do just 10, really):
Sugar Hill Gang – Rapper’s Delight
Probably the first rap song I knew all the words to (and still do). Because really, have you been to a friend’s house and the chicken tastes like wood?
Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up
Quintessential GET THIS PARTY STARTED song. (Maze’s Before I Let Go is a CLOSE second.) To this day, after the first few bars, I’m smiling. This is my clean the house song, on repeat, because I never tire of it.
Madonna – Borderline
Yeah, this one gets mentioned because it taught me I had to rely on myself, no one else. I was in a talent show in sixth grade and I intended to sing this. My mother refused to buy the instrumental record although I’d found it in Kemp Mill. I got on that stage in a dress she’d made me wear a slip under but the slip was too big and kept falling. I was singing Madonna a capella with my slip showing. I looked around the audience for support and saw my mother. Yes! No. She was laughing, along with the rest of the audience.
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