Music has saved me countless times. I know this is a sentiment I’m not alone in – most of us have that one band, song or genre that gets us through the hard times, pumps us up and motivates us, and makes our hearts sing. If music did not exist in my life, I probably would have packed it in long ago. It’s just that important to me.
I was born into a love of music, so I suppose I have my parents to thank. My father knew he wanted to be a radio DJ by the time he was 5 years old, and before he was even out of high school, he was spinning records at a local radio station. He worked in radio all throughout my childhood and well into my teenage years. He’d bring records and tapes home for me to enjoy, and there was always an endless barrage of music blasting through our stereo system. My mother has always been a huge music fan, posing me for pictures with her much beloved, worn down copy of Joan Jett’s debut album when I was three, and making me compilations of music she though I’d like to play in my car when I was 18. I can thank my dad for my love of David Bowie, Aerosmith, and Pink Floyd. I have my mom to thank for the Runaways, Tori Amos, and VAST. I have both of them to thank for the Beatles.
My dad was a radio deejay before he was 20!
To this day I am an encyclopedia of music, and friends often come to me when they can’t think of a song or artist. I’m an absolute music nerd. Seriously, just ask me, and I’ll make you a CD or post endless YouTube videos on your Facebook wall.
A few years ago I inherited both of my parents’ record collections – hundreds of amazing albums, mine for the taking. My childhood in music form. They are my most prized possessions.
I grew up madly in love with classic rock. Everything from Queen to Yes to T. Rex was on my radar. I taped songs off the radio and wrote down lyrics in my poetry journal. I analyzed every nuance in Freddie Mercury’s voice, tried to analyze Robert Plant’s lyrics, and perfected the art of the Steven Tyler scream. Posters of shirtless Jim Morrison graced my walls, and I owned more books on the Beatles than the local bookstore. I was a classic rock groupie, through and through.
Second place in my teenage heart would be grunge. Alice In Chains will always hold a place close to my heart, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. I loved the ’90s rock gals like Courtney Love, Liz Phair, Tori, Ani Difranco, and Tracy Bonham, who showed me that you don’t have to be a petite, pretty princess to be sexy, and you can say bad words and keep your hair unbrushed and still command the room. These rock goddesses showed me what it was to be a strong-willed, creative force of nature, a feminist, and still stay true to myself.
I discovered classical music in early adulthood, and fell deeply in love. My one true passion has always been Beethoven. I find his personal story fascinating and heartbreaking, and find a kind of solace in his music that I have never found anywhere else. He wrote pure emotion, and the depth and purity of his notes are unparalleled. He is the only composer to ever move me to tears without a single word sung. The Moonlight Sonata is my absolute favorite piece of music. I also adore Mozart, Grieg, Lizst, Tchaikovsky, Bach, Chopin, and Vivaldi, whose “Four Seasons” have many times been the soundtrack of my life. I played classical music (along with the Beatles) to my stomach every day when I was expecting my son. I imagine when he was born he probably never wanted to hear “Ode to Joy” ever again.
I love music. I have songs that tell my story, that I associate with times in my life. Songs that have gotten me through. When I was going through a particularly hard period in which I felt very alone, I listened to tons of Al Green, Nina Simone, Otis Redding and Billie Holiday. Those four have exquisite, soulful pain in their voices that reached out and touched me, and made me feel comforted. I still turn to those guys when I feel blue. I feel like they know what’s going on.
When I’m feeling introspective and nostalgic, I turn to the Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” which remains my very favorite song of all time. I’ve worn it out on my vinyl of the White Album, and it’s on just about every mixed CD and tape I’ve ever made. It is my favorite song for various reasons – the gentle, eerie tone in John’s voice, the political and moral message in the chorus, and the most amazing lyric ever written, “She’s well acquainted with the touch of a velvet hand, like a lizard on a window pane.” Oh, the words of a true lyrical genius – I would kill to write even half a sentence that melodic and full of color and feeling.
When my grandfather died in 2001, of lung cancer, I had never truly known the grief of losing a family member. I’d grown up lucky and sheltered, with all my grandparents, and almost all of my great-grandparents in my life. When he died the grief shattered me completely. I was a mess of a young woman – dealing with eating disorders, emotions I didn’t know how to control, the desire to be independent and do something with my life. I was 19 and a hot mess. I found that I identified so incredibly with the lyrics of Daniel Johns from Silverchair. He too, knew what it was like to struggle with weight issues, body image, wanting to fit in, trying to grow up and be something, do something. The night my grandfather died I curled up in my bed and listened to “Miss You Love” over and over, until my pain somewhat subsided. It isn’t a well-known song, and was never a hit. Now that Silverchair has somewhat faded into obscurity, I imagine nobody ever listens to it anymore. But it will always have a place in the forefront of my heart for getting me through a hard time. I still love Silverchair to this day. They are a guilty pleasure of mine. Adolescent, grungy alt-rock will always have a place with me.
While on the topic of guilty pleasures, I certainly have mine when it comes to music. I’ll never turn down a Michael Jackson song, especially if it is an early-era song, or something by the Jackson 5. I go through periods of listening to nothing but the King of Pop for days on end. Crowded House, Heart (even 80’s era Heart), Aerosmith, and 30 Seconds to Mars are among the bands that I love unabashedly, despite getting lots of crap for it over the years. I care nothing for mainstream popularity, or social constraints – I love the music I love, and I don’t give a fig what anybody thinks!
My mom also instilled a love of music in me (though we don’t share the love of KISS). She may murder me for sharing this photo of her, hanging out in the studio in my dad’s DJ days.
In recent years I’ve discovered a treasure trove of music that I’ve fallen deeply in love with. Some artists that come to mind are Lykke Li, Liam Finn (who is the son of Crowded House singer Neil Finn), La Roux, Bat for Lashes, Hayden Desser, MGMT, Pinback, Arcade Fire, Imogen Heap, and Ladyhawke. Many of these great artists are powerhouse females who are amazingly talented, beautiful, unique and provide me with endless inspiration. All of them are amazing and produce incredible music over a variety of genres.
Then of course you have the favorites; the artists you can pry from my cold, dead fingertips. The Beatles. David Bowie. T. Rex. Salmonella Dub. Ben Harper. Joan Jett. George Harrison. Billie Holiday. Alice In Chains. They are my go-to friends for which I go to for everything. Comfort, good times, a soundtrack to live by. Music is my best friend, my source for inspiration, my everything. I suppose it makes perfect sense that I married a jack-of-all-trades musician who plays just about any instrument you can think of and dabbles in everything from electronica to country. It’s just the way my life was meant to play out!
So who do you love, fellow Persephoneers? What music speaks to you?