Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Music

I love the music of the second decade of this twenty-first century almost as much as I love the music of my twenty-somethings well on into my thirty-somethings and beyond. My inner dancer comes alive with the beat, and she can move. She spins moves from R & B, from line dancing, Bollywood, and Britney as her inner demons find release as they always have, as she becomes another, the one she was then.

Country Joe and the Fish lobbing that fine old Anglo-Saxon word for plowing transports me. I shout back that oh, so common, multi-purpose F-word. I feel frayed denim under my heel, pressing between huararches and flesh. Beads bounce against unrestrained breasts, and my hair falls almost to my waist. I feel wasted and cynical and a child in the garden with Joni Mitchell’s friends singing of Woodstock (1970). I wait with the crowd in the Village for Joni to appear at Fillmore East or Albert King uptown at Columbia, and I sway in jubilation when Neil Armstrong walks on the moon.

In the next decade, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive (1979) and Donna Summer’s She Works Hard for the Money (1983) inspire a strut within me. I feel my step lengthen, my chin lift. I’m proud to be rising from oppression, standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow feminists, our new choices and guaranteed freedoms before me.  Some of that freedom is the freedom to rock, and I grow antic, even frenzied when the 90s dawn in Thunderstruck. So animal, so primal. My hands adopt the posture of a poised cobra, my legs powerful and loose at the same time. I shake my locks and turn my face to the sun.
Music stitches the fabric of our stories.
What music tells your story?
Photo by AlGriffin
Loom on display at Camden County Museum,
Camden County, Missouri 2014

As the 90s grow older, so do I, and my listening library now includes Raffi’s Baby Beluga and Tom Chapin’s sweet lyrics to wish someone a happy birthday. But my daughter grows quickly into a fan of Matchbox 20. Together we attend a Matchbox 20 and LifeHouse concert in St. Louis. Later, listening to Rob Thomas sing with Santana, I add a Latin rhythm to my inner dancer, remembering the cha-cha at The Pink Barn and Skilly’s, two must-have experiences for budding teenagers in early 1960s Tulsa, OK where we learned to dance the Fox Trot, waltz, cha-cha, and swing; we also learned to hold sweaty hands and overcome our dread of the opposite gender.

When my daughter asked for the first and new CD by SmashMouth, I hesitated, wondering if the lyrics of Walkin' on the Sun and music video would prove too provocative. I tried to convince myself that images from Britney Spears’s sexualized, pigtailed school girl in a short-skirt over knee-high black boots singing Baby One More Time would not burn themselves into her psyche, but, of course, they did. Britney’s dance moves surely play within her when she hears that song from her past. How could she resist being transported back to that time, that place, that song as I am transported into different selves when music from my past plays?

I suspect that each of us rests inside Russian dolls of music. The largest doll is this decade, and the smallest is the early music that seemed to tell our stories, the ones that evoked angst and sorrow, the music that made it impossible to keep our feet and heads still.

Reading and Writing Challenge:

Peel back your musical layers as you listen to music from your past, and as you do, try to describe the dance you dance.  Or “read” You Can't Always Get What You Want. Write a poem revealing the images and emotions that the song evokes. Then "read" Kelly Clarkson's What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger. Write a second poem revealing the images and emotions evoked by this theme song.