Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day One--A Favorite Song

All right, so A favorite song should grammatically read MY favorite song, as favorite implies one, the ultimate, the top, the best. But for someone who lives and breathes through music, choosing one song out of the billions is impossible. So today I'm talking about one of many, one that just crushed me in the aftermath of my life falling apart.

I think there are two types of people in the world: music people and everyone else. My husband falls into the second camp. When we met he owned about 1 CD.  He listened to talk radio in the car--and NOT EVEN NPR. I'd talk about legendary concerts from my past, about singing with my friends to mix tapes in the car, and dancing around the living room as a child to Christopher Cross (ha!) and Neil Young and Michael Jackson and the Beatles--nothin'. The irony of all this is his mother OWNS A DANCE STUDIO, and he literally grew up listening to music.

I knew I had a huge task on my hands.  Summers of my youth were spent on the porch, reading and listening through headphones to The Smiths, 3rd Bass and a Tribe Called Quest (we're talking "People's Instinctive Paths . . ." back then). Many afternoons and evening of high school I spent locked in my bedroom playing Dire Strait's "Romeo and Juliet" over and over and OVER again, with some Elvis Costello and Cypress Hill and De La Soul thrown in for good measure. College inevitably brought out the Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction in me. (Oh, and also Phish. Good god, so much Phish.)

I have a whole library of music I have to ramp myself up to listen to--the summer of Van Morrison, the Grateful Dead and Guru. The memories are visceral. The first CD's I owned were LL Cool J and Jesus Jones and EMF--what would I have done without Columbia House and BMG?! I hear songs from the early 1990's and can remember the CLOTHES I WAS WEARING the first time I heard them.

So to say my husband and I have a completely different world view on music is an understatement. He likes music, even enjoys it--don't misunderstand. It's just not a central part of his world as it is mine. When we got married I remember asking him, "How EXCITED are you that I come with ALL THESE CD'S?!?!" Blank stare.

So for his birthday a few years ago I made him a collection. About 10 CDs I titled "The Essentials." Alphabetically ordered from Alice in Chains to Yes, and quite literally everything else in between.  he listens to them in rotation, and as I discover new favorites, I try to keep him updated.

These days for me it's a steady rotation of Belle and Sebastian, Fleet Foxes, Blitzen Trapper, my all-time perennial favorite R.E.M., Q Tip and Ben Folds, among others. This is where I am right now. I tend to gorge myself on certain bands, genres, albums, and then they have to hide for awhile. For example I'd probably run out of the room if you put on Great Big Sea at the moment, despite my deep rooted love for them.  I've been like this my whole life, and it works for me.

So back to my original thought, a favorite song. In the aftermath of Calla's death, I loaded up my iPod with loads of new music. I tried to forge a new identity through music, and if blasted loud enough into my brain, maybe I'd become her. And, while I'm still me, despite all the cracks and fissures, I've found some new favorites. The playlists don't really contain a theme--there's Alphaville, Lady Gaga, Peter Bjorn and John, Bon Iver, Krishna Das and Leo Kottke.

But the one song that stopped me cold was Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work." I love Maxwell's version too, but the vocals on Kate Bush's rendition are enough to bring me to my knees. I remember one afternoon, out for a run, when this came through the earbuds. And suddenly I was running and huffing and puffing and crying. This woman's work, indeed. This grieving is work, it is hard work. And although this song isn't necessarily about my particular loss or situation, it feels right. My new theme song.

"I know you have a lotta life left,
I know you have a little strength left."

I sure hope so.


  1. It's funny that you listed "This Woman's Work" as one of the songs that completely knocks you down - because it's one of mine, too. I know our reasons are completely different, but that's one of the few songs that REALLY brings me to a genuinely unpleasant, unwelcome place.

    We've had this discussion about music before on my blog - I'm EXACTLY like you are with songs, albums, etc. Exactly. And my husband is like yours. I think I probably get more frustrated with mine than you do with yours, though - hahaha, I'm not very understanding when it comes to this. Like, HOW DO YOU NOT HAVE STORIES FOR EVERY SINGLE SONG!??!?!?!

    But anyway, I just couldn't believe that was one of your "ugh" songs, too. It's still a beautiful song - I just can't really listen to it.

  2. Day 1 - your favorite song - actually don't have one - too easily ruined
    Day 2 - your favorite movie - Say Anything
    Day 3 - your favorite television program - Seinfeld
    Day 4 - your favorite book - Alice In Wonderland - one of only two books I've read more than once, and I look forward to the next read
    Day 5 - your favorite quote - Keep it simple, stupid

    Love ya!

  3. such an awesome song mary! a friend of mine from college sang it with her a capella group and it was phenomenal!! (i just realized you were doing this too..playing catch up)