Today: May 29, 2024

Music lasting through generations


A few months ago I discovered Pandora and I’ve been obsessed ever since. I don’t know what took me so long; maybe I’ve been living under a rock like Patrick Star. Anyway, I was listening to The Cars station as I was getting ready for class when “867-5309” by Tommy Tutone came on. After the song was over, I turned off Pandora and started walking to class when I realized I was still singing it. Even after I got to Morrill Hall my head was still bobbing. I texted my mom: “867-5309 is stuck in my head!” and she texted me back “Don’t call Jenny.”

Growing up, my mom would make my sister Jocelyn and I clean the house. She’d put on an Elton John CD, or the first disk of the “Forrest Gump” soundtrack and put the volume for the speakers loud enough so you could hear it throughout the entire house. The only time you had difficulty hearing music was when the vacuum was on. Even after we finished cleaning, the music kept going. We sang and my mother would make us dance. I typically refused because I was 10 and too cool. Jocelyn would get stuck dancing with her, but we would all be grinning from ear to ear.

At 16, my mom taught me how to drive in what used to be an abandoned parking lot. She’d put on a Def Leppard CD and tell me to signal, turn, stop, don’t hit the snow bank. By the time I went to take my driver’s test, I was so tempted to put the CD in. Driving with a creeper sitting inches away from me nearly in silence is not my style. My mom (still) regularly preaches “Don’t text and drive” or “don’t be talking on the phone,” but for the most part I honestly don’t. I tend to steer with my left hand and fiddle with the radio buttons using my right hand—just like my mom does. Like her, I’d rather get caught up with the music and sing than be on my phone.

Somewhere along the way, my mom got the impression ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” is my song. Whenever it comes on she says “Simone, it’s your song!” I have no idea why. It’s never been a favorite song of mine, so I find the whole thing strange. Yet every time she insists. She raises the volume and finds it necessary to sing to me. So every time “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners is on, I raise the volume. When she changes the station, I change it back. The song is like nails on a chalkboard for her. To watch her body react to hearing the song is absolutely hysterical; you would think she had just seen the body of a deer torn to shreds on the side of the road.

A few years ago, my mom, Jocelyn and I drove down to North Carolina to visit my Grandma and Pop-Pop. We left around 9 p.m. to avoid traffic; it’s also better than wasting a half a day driving. My mom did the 12-hour drive non-stop. Jocelyn was stretched out in the back while I was in the passenger seat. My mom brought a variety of CDs; she said she needed her “driving music.” We listened to Barry Manilow (no I’m not a Fanilow). She sang “Mandy” so passionately and begged me to join in. For the most part I tried not to. I don’t even want to think about “Copacabana.” There were other CDs too, but Barry Manilow always stuck out to me. There’s something about long drives and music that brings people closer together; just look at movies. Chris Farley and David Spade sing R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” in “Tommy Boy;” or Mike Myers and his crew sing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in “Wayne’s World.” You get the idea.

The night before my grandma’s birthday (Oct. 18), I was trying to unwind before bed. I had my Billy Joel station on Pandora when Neil Diamond’s song “Sweet Caroline” came on. The second I heard it I grinned. My grandma absolutely adores Neil—”Sweet Caroline” is her cellphone ring tone too. She’s also a huge Elvis Presley fan. The day he died, my grandma was so upset my mom thought her father died. Every year my grandma still gets upset as his death anniversary approaches (Aug. 16). Growing up, my grandma would make my mom and aunts clean the house every Saturday. She would insist on putting on Neil, Elvis, and The Carpenters. Oh, the irony.

My grandma criticized some of the music my mom listened to growing up (think Kiss, Motley Crue); my mom refers to some of the music I like as “rap crap.” However, my mom and I listen to some of the same music, as does my mom and my grandma. My great-grandma is still a big Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin fan; artists my grandma listens to as well. In a strange way, music can overlap multiple generations, bringing together mothers and daughters. I may not have all of my relatives forever, but I will always have the music and memories as reminders of what I’ve been fortunate enough to say I’ve had.

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