all of the selves we Have ever been
Tonight I am going to see
a production of the Music Man at a local high school.
The film version came out when I was a little girl. I can still sing the words to most of the songs—“seventy-six trombones led the big parade,” and “there’s gonna be trouble, right here in River City,” and, of course, there was romance as well as trouble, “I love you madly, madly Marian, Madame Librarian.” The rhythms are irresistible. Every listener becomes a member of the marching band.
Music is important to a happy life at any age. It releases dopamine, the pleasure chemical in the brain, improves mood, and helps new learning to stick, but we don’t need to understand the science. Experience tells us that music makes everything better.
When I was young and my father was in the military, our family spent many long days traveling from one part of the country to another. My siblings and I saw a lot of the United States from the back of a Rambler station wagon. The interstate highway system did not exist as it does today. Much of the drive between California and Ohio took us through the middle of nowhere. There were no cell phones, iPods, or portable DVD players. There were not even cassette tapes or CDs. Radio reception was infrequent. We had to make our own fun for thousands of miles. My mom was great at keeping us occupied by conducting sing-alongs.
The miles flew behind us as we belted out Doris Day hits like Que Sera, “what will I be…handsome or rich…?” And maybe everyone knows that an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant, but we knew otherwise, because, as Frank Sinatra told us, “he had high hopes, high apple-pie in the sky hopes.” We understood that ant because we had high hopes too as we moved from place to place.
Fast food restaurants were not a thing back then. There was an occasional Stuckeys, famous for pecan logs and clean restrooms. I still love pecans! Those were special because most of our long journey was fueled by Spam and Premium Saltine Crackers. And we were starved and exhausted from all of that singing!
My father enjoyed listening to the radio. He loved Patty Page and The Tennessee Waltz about a stolen sweetheart. I once caught my mother jammin’ in the kitchen to the Fifth Dimension singing Up, Up and Away. In my Aunt Addie’s house the stereo played while we made Christmas cookies in the next room. Addie loved Frank Sinatra who made us all love New York. Barbra Streisand was also on Aunt Addie’s play list. In later years, I introduced my aunt to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
As I inched along in life, I became a devoted fan of everything Motown. When I was eleven, I got a portable eight-track tape player and a few Motown tapes. That was the best Christmas ever! Wish I still had that thing. Through my teen years, I grew a large collection of vinyl 33 LPs and listened to music up in my room, trying to teach myself how to play the songs on my guitar. As an adult, music continued to provide fuel for my trips here and there and energized my morning shower, beginning my day with a dose of joy.
When my first child was born, a friend gave us a cassette tape, the Lullabies of Broadway. The beautiful music mostly comforted her father and I during long sleepless nights with a screaming baby, “nothing can harm you, not while I’m around.” The cassette tape wore out a long time ago, but I have a newer version. I continue to listen to the songs and relive that precious time when I was a new mom soothing a sweet baby.
Later, that baby girl grew up to love music and introduced me to new songs and artists. One day in a card shop I heard a new voice singing old Frank Sinatra hits. I asked my daughter who was singing. She told me about a new star named Michael Buble. I’ve been to two of his concerts since that day. I love that he brought back the old music our parents loved and made it new for another generation. My son was the one who introduced me to Luther Vandross and the aching words of Dance with My Father Again, and "a house is not home if there is no one there to hold you tight..."
My brother died suddenly in his sleep at the age of 37. The music of Dan Fogelberg brings my brother back to me. My brother introduced me to Fogelberg and The Innocent Age album. The music is so soulful and the lyrics so beautiful such a when he sings about his father’s “thundering velvet hand,” or “longer than there’ve been fishes in the ocean, …I’ve been in love with you.”
I enjoy the voices of my favorite singers, but I also appreciate the voices of the instruments themselves, voices that can both reflect and change my mood. Sometimes I need a quiet piano, while other times I need the lively horns, or the heartbeat of percussion. Music enlivens and it comforts. And I love, love, love the earnest, joyful voices of children. Kindergartners are all rock stars!
I appreciate the image that heaven will be filled with trumpets and horns and choirs of angels. How could a place be heaven without music?
When it is my time, sing me home! I won’t be surprised if the angels look like Diana Ross and the Supremes, “Stop! In the name of love,” they will sing at the gate.
Even if I’m wrong about who the headliners will be, I know one thing for sure--heaven has a hell of a band. The Righteous Brothers told me so.