I have this vivid memory of being maybe 6 years old and playing Trivial Pursuit with my dad and brother. The question was (as I recall it): which of these songs is a hit song by the Beatles: Hey Jude or Hey Joe? I remember the pure horror I felt for not being sure about the answer, my brother covering his face is his hands, this is so embarrassing, my 6-year-old sister doesn’t know the obvious answer that Lennon and Mccartney wrote Hey Jude. So yeah, one could say music played a big part in my life from the beginning. In retrospect, I can’t imagine a childhood without music.
I’m not the only one. As living beings, Finnish or Ethiopians, we are bound to love a good beat. The first beat we are introduced to is the heartbeat, resonating in the womb before we are born into this world, an underwater stereo comforting us. That’s what unites us, our innate need for a beat, rhythm. It is simple. We need music. We need it as a channel for our emotions or states of minds, and we need it to move something in us.
There are songs that stay with you through time. They might define an era in your life, or maybe they reflect a state of mind or a feeling. They grow with you. These are your life songs, the soundtrack of your life. Everyone has them! These are mine:
1. Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road
I discovered Bruce Springsteen very recently. My earliest memory of the Boss relates to my elementary school teacher who adored him. This was 20 years ago. I started loving Springsteen some 4 years back, and haven’t looked back since. He is the best storyteller I know. I remember seeing a Lady Gaga interview where she said her father promised to buy her a piano if she learned to play Thunder Road. She recalled her father listening to Thunder Road every day when growing up, crying every time. I get it know. The feeling in the song is so intense, a mix of remorse, hope, desperation and love – I don’t even know what Springsteen really wrote the song about, but to me it is about some sort of leap. Life is filled with those (bitter)sweet, frightening, baby-I’m-just-a-lonely-rider-but-I-gotta-know-how-it-feels leaps.
2. Ryan Adams – New York, New York
I have (had) a serious obsession with Ryan Adams. I’ve seen him live six times and I’ve stalked him more than any other artist. It wasn’t always nice to watch him flip out in his impetuous blogging but I sure followed all of it. I love Ryan Adams. All other contemporary singer-songwriters are secondary to me. New York, New York was my theme song when I decided I wanted to do an internship at the UN. I was in Portugal and biked the beautiful roads in the westernmost point in Europe. I decided right there and then that I would be going to New York. I shouted that across the Atlantic and 10 months later I was there. New York, New York is one of the best album openings of all times. The song is surprisingly upbeat for a Ryan Adams song, despite the ‘had myself a lover who was finer than gold but I’ve been broken up and busted up since’ theme throughout the four minutes of its length.
3. Coldplay – Clocks
I think Coldplay is for me one of the most recent (and their first album came out in 2000!) contemporary bands that has caused some sort of transcendent feeling in me. I still remember it vividly, listening to the album Parachutes for the first time. That was something new. That totally hit me! And the song Clocks from their next album takes me way back. The millennium hysteria was over, but there we were (we= my generation), young and discovering the world through music. I am eternally grateful to Coldplay for appearing in my youth.
4. Outkast – Hey Ya!
Hey Ya! It brings me back to a time in high school when I was finally done with feeling self-conscious 24/7 and had found the greatest friends on the planet. What’s cooler than being cool? Everybody loved Andre 3000 that year, including me. This song is an eternal love of mine. It is a peculiar one, supposedly happy but sad underneath. I still have to do the hand claps if I am dancing to this song.
5. Michael Jackson – Black or White
A big idol since my childhood, Michael Jackson is the one and only King of Pop. We had a turntable at home and dad brought home the Dangerous album. I was frustrated because I didn’t know how to operate the turntable needle properly. I wanted to listen to the songs over and over again. Black or White is classic Michael and I could listen to the guitar riff over and over again. I am lucky to have seen Michael live in Helsinki in 1997 with my sisters. Another powerful experience was to be in New York when the news of his death spread like wildfire. Only minutes after the first TV announcement, the streets of New York were filled with MJ’s music. It was everywhere then. The King is dead! Long live the king.
6. The Beatles – Please Please Me
I fully realize that the cool thing to do would be to choose a favourite Beatles song from the White Album, Abbey Road or maybe Revolver. I love all of their albums, but I wholeheartedly adore the early stuff, too. The harmonies in Please Please Me are disarming and the song makes me kind of wish I could have lived in that era in the 1960s when the Fab Four appeared and this music was considered revolutionary and an object of scorn by the elderly. I can’t say who my favourite Beatle is although I’m always leaning towards John ‘I don’t believe in Beatles – I just believe in me’ Lennon a bit.
7. Common – The Light
I first heard this song in a dancing class. I had to ask the instructor who this artist is. It’s hard not to have a crush on Common after this song. He is a poet! Just listen to those lyrics – this is such a love song. This song brings me back to a special place and time in my life and still makes me smile.
8. Neil Young – Heart of Gold
Was Neil Young really only 27 when he wrote this song? Or that album? Maybe times were gentler then. Maybe it allowed for more creativity. Maybe Laurel Canyon was the secret recipe. Heart of Gold is one of the greatest songs ever written. It defines evergreen and so does Neil Young. That’s all I have to say about that!
So that’s my list! It looks very American and very male-dominated. These ones almost made the cut: Bon Iver, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joni Mitchell, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Mumford & Sons, Lauryn Hill, PMMP, Oasis, The Killers, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley.
What are your life songs and why?