Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The soundtrack of our lives

(I just came across these memories of my days as a classroom teacher in a Facebook post from three years ago and thought I would share.)

When my students had writing assignments, I allowed them to listen to music if they had earphones. Those who did not were forced to endure having my musical collection, consisting mostly of songs from the '60s and '70s, but also dipping into the 1950s (and a few newer ones, but those were the exception.)

Most of the time the students just ignored the music and worked on the papers, but every so often they would request that I put some songs I had played for them earlier on the playlist.

Sometimes when they began asking for a particular song, I knew it must have been in some movie they saw. "America" by Neil Diamond was one of those.

Some songs they grew to like- Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl, the Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black," Nilsson's "Coconut", Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat song, were on that list.

One year, it was all the Four Seasons, especially "Big Girls Don't Cry." Another year, there was a brief Dave Clark Five outbreak.

Some of the kids liked all of the songs, because their parents, and in my cases, their grandparents, listened to the music.

I couldn't go wrong with the Beatles, the earlier Elvis, the Beach Boys or Johnny Cash. (Even the kids with the earplugs turned off their music after the first few notes of "Ring of Fire.")

One year, there was a girl who was not particularly impressed with my choice of music, preferring to hear singers like Britney Spears, who was popular at that time.

"Why do you listen to that music. It's old," she said, describing it accurately.

I told her about a recent article I read that said your musical tastes were defined during your teen years and the same music you listened to then will be the music you will prefer throughout your adulthood.
"The music you are listening to on your iPod is the same music you will want to hear when you are as old as I am."

I had a difficult time interpreting the look on her face. I thought it might be joy because she thought she would still be listening to good music in the future, but disgust in realizing that one day she was going to be as old as I was.

I have always thought the people who grew up in my era had a distinct advantage because Top 40 radio in the 60s covered such a wide range of music and I was able to appreciate rock, country, soul, easy listening and variations on each.

These days, many young people (and older people, too) limit themselves to just one type of music and radio stations are completely programmed to appeal to a narrow, segmented audiences.

All of these thoughts crossed my mind this afternoon as I am listening to a countdown of the top 40 songs from this week 50 years ago in May 1969.

So far, I have heard songs from the Beatles, Elvis, the Who, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Glen Campbell, James Brown, the Supremes, "The iceman" Jerry Butler and Marvin Gaye.

And they haven't even reached the top 15.

If music is truly provides the soundtrack of your life, I have been lucky.

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