Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Musical Trip Down Memory Lane

Recently, I acquired a used MP3 player to use while driving, so I don’t have to lug around dozens of CDs any longer, nor worry about changing them in traffic.

In preparation for loading it up with music, I ripped all my CDs to my computer’s Windows Media Player, cherry picking the songs I wanted from each CD, in order to save space.

As I pulled out CDs from my car and from every nook and cranny in the house, I realized there were several missing, no doubt having “found” their way into my son’s collection, which I intend to remedy at the soonest opportunity. I also realized that I had a long way to go to replace all the vinyl records I owned when I switched over to CDs years ago.

Working with what I had, I realized that I had a fairly eclectic mix of genres, though it does lean heavily to classic rock. As I ripped the CDs, I listened to some of the songs as the computer uploaded them, some of which I’d not listened to in years

At my age, I am now free to admit my like for various types “uncool” music that I couldn’t have openly admitted twenty years ago: stuff from my parents’ generation, some country and folk music, and classical music.

Other songs brought back strong memories of where I was and what I was doing the first heard them. I particularly have an affinity for ballads that tell a story, as they’re a nice change from the typical songs about love that are ubiquitous to nearly all genres of music.

A small sampling of some of the “uncool” music I listened to and my thoughts about each songs:

Fanfare for the Common Man — Aaron Copland

I’ve been a fan of Copland’s music since I was privileged to play the lead trumpet part for this piece in high school. Fanfare For the Common Man, along with 18 other fanfares written by other composers, was written upon request in 1942 to be “stirring and significant contributions to the war effort….”. Copland’s Fanfare is the only one to have stood the test of time, and when I hear this, I can easily visualize the Normandy landings on D-Day as, in Winston Churchill’s words, “the new world, with all its power and might, stepped forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? — Tom Jones

I know that some people consider Jones little more than a faintly sleazy lounge lizard singer, but Jones in his earlier career, sticking to the ballads which best show off his not inconsiderable talent, is well worth listening to. Brother, Can You Spare a Dime, a Depression-era ballad, is an excellent example of Jones’ sheer vocal power and emotional range.

Originally written in 1931 at the height of the Depression, about a man, who was apparently a WWI veteran, telling about his fall from economic security. The words are uncomfortably relevant again now in the current severe economic downturn.

Once I built a railroad, made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime

Once I built a tower, to the sun
Bricks, rivet, and lime
Once I built a tower, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime

Once in cocky suits
Gee, we looked swell
Full of that Yankee Doodle-dom

Half a million boots, they went
Slogging through Hell
And I, I was a kid with a drum

Say, don’t you remember
They called me Al
It was Al all the time

Say, don’t you remember
I’m your pal
Buddy, can you spare a dime

It Was a Very Good Year — Frank Sinatra

Though another singer with a reputation as a lounge singer, I have to admit I’ve liked this song, recorded some time during my elementary school years, since I was a kid.

I’d not listened to this song in many, many years until I uploaded the CD to my computer the other night. As I listened to this song, the words hit me like a punch to the gut. Though I’d not noticed it before, this is a song about an aging libertine wistfully remembering his libertine life as he remembered the women he’d been with over the years.

Though I’m not quite at the point of being “in the autumn of the year” yet, now that I’ve hit fifty, the words have suddenly become uncomfortably relevant to me. And I have to admit hearing this song again with new ears gave me a lump in my throat — this is my life and is my future.

When I was seventeen
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for small town girls
And soft summer nights
Wed hide from the lights
On the village green
When I was seventeen

When I was twenty-one
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for city girls
Who lived up the stair
With all that perfumed hair
And it came undone
When I was twenty-one

When I was thirty-five
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls
Of independent means
We’d ride in limousines
Their chauffeurs would drive
When I was thirty-five

But now the days grow short
I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine
from fine old kegs
from the brim to the dregs
It poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year

1 comment:

Tony said...

been enjoying your blog lately. got interested when i saw the word Libertine. i had never heard of this before. interesting and puzzling at the same time for me.{61 year old married male}

mp3 and ipods are the best!