Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Soundtrack to My Youth

"I think George Michael may have died..."

I was sitting at the dining room table at Mom's, having just finished Christmas supper, when I received the text.  The year two thousand and sixteen, already cursed with so much darkness and death, had claimed yet another.

I suppose you never know how news like that will hit you until it does.  But amidst all the usual Christmas gaiety - the excitement of the nephews and niece, the adults talking, some Christmas movie on the television -- it took everything within me to keep from weeping openly.

I walked down the hall for a moment to gather myself.  When I returned, I told my sister the news.  She looked shocked for a second, then sang a couple of lines of "Faith" and moved on.  She didn't get it.  She was a bit too young then.

"Then" being somewhere in the vicinity of 1988.

Faith.  Father Figure.  Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.  One More Try.  Careless Whisper.  That music was the soundtrack to my youth.

For me, it represents those sweet spot days of thirteen to nineteen.  First cars and awkward first kisses.  Bonfires and pep rallies and hanging out at the mall.  Falling in love and first broken hearts.  When the real world had mostly yet to begin to erode the innocence.

I remember being on a field trip.  We were going to Helen Keller's birthplace, I think.  On the bus, I had strategically positioned myself on the seat in front of Annalisa Gray, on whom I had a little crush.  She was listening to the "Faith" album on her Walkman, which made her even more appealing.  

Though I had both the "Make It Big" and "Music From the Edge of Heaven" cassettes from the Wham! days, I had not yet procured my own copy of George Michael's first solo album.  I daydreamed that we might share headphones while listening to it, but as reality would have it, I think she loaned me her Walkman long enough to listen to one song.

The next year, she and I would perfect the art of the tongueless kiss.  (Is art the right word?)  I got my own copy of "Faith" and flat wore it out.  As it almost always does, the music outlived the crush.

I guess eventually the music outlives us all...

"I'm looking out for angels, just trying to find some peace..."


  1. Carrie Fisher was the tough one for me (I was still listening to 60s-70s music in the 80s--and still listening to 60s-70s). I remember falling in love with her while watching Star Wars. She was so cute except for those stupid cinnamon roll hair pieces, but I sure she would have taken down her hair for me.

    1. That look was iconic though. We had a girl at work who wore her hair up similarly a couple of times, so we started calling her Princess Leia.

  2. You know, it's odd. I knew the name George Michael and I'm familiar with every one of the songs you named, but could not have told you he was the singer of them.

    You are right how music defines our youth. I'm years ahead of you and when I hear certain songs by the likes of James Taylor, Carole King, Chicago or The Eagles, I am transported back in time to countless places and events.

    Then there is Karen Carpenter, whose angelic voice lulled me to sleep countless times from the radio by my bed as a teenager. When she died, I assure you I openly wept!

    1. There are certain songs, and even though I might have heard them a hundred or a thousand times, when I hear them now I remember only one particular moment/time when I heard them before and am always transported back to that memory.

      Can't imagine life without music. Wouldn't want to.

      Oh, and I do have some James Taylor and Chicago on my phone. And plenty of Eagles.

    2. Uhh . . . music on your phone??!! 😆

  3. Prince was harder for me, though by definition, he was a bit old for me, too. But I

    I think losing anything that reminds us of great moments in our youth is difficult. It's letting go all over again.

  4. I liked George Michael and those songs but I guess for me, the hardest loss this year was Glen Fry. Even though we both grew up in the 80's, I am still stuck in the 70's musically.

    1. Whoa, I think I missed Glen Fry dying. Or I've just forgotten, which I seem to forget everything these days!