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The Three Most Important Songs in My Life

Updated on February 5, 2016

Music soothes the savage beast, they say. Certainly all people are influenced by music in some way. Often, hearing an “oldie but goodie” brings back specific memories, whether the music is classical, jazz, or pop.

The first song that comes to mind is the theme from The Rose. Actually released in 1979, it is the only song I learned in the 1980s, a period in pop music that I suspect was suffering from a dearth of talent. I’d seen the movie, an approximate biography of Janis Joplin, and surely the song addresses that experience. But it goes far beyond that. The lyrics identified the feelings of so many people of the time – lost, disappointed, hurt – and offers hope that there is a rose of happiness hiding under the snow. One could almost cry when singing those lyrics.

Another piece of music that influenced me is “le valse bleu”. I don’t remember who the composer was. My father once asked my mother to play it on her piano for him and their friends. When she was done Dad said it was a showpiece – if you never learned another piece on the piano, a recital of this waltz would knock the socks off people. Then you should walk away before they ask you to play another! With this idea in mind, I dedicated myself to learning the piece by heart, even though it was beyond my current level of expertise. I practiced it whenever Mom wasn’t home – she was a professional jazz pianist, and I didn’t want her hearing how badly I played it. I persevered and committed it to memory. But I never had the nerve to try Dad’s recital plan.

The last piece that comes to mind is “You are my sunshine”. When “Sing along with Mitch” (Mitch Miller) was popular, my father bought a couple of the albums and played them for his father, who used to work at my great uncle’s tavern, when barbershop quartets were big. Grandpa loved the nostalgia, and even cried when “My Buddy” played. I learned most of the songs on the albums Dad had, and “You are my sunshine” was one of them. Three decades later, I sang the song to my little daughter. Even though she felt sad from the lyrics, it became “our song”, and she now sings it to her younger daughter. The lyrics do say that the singer misses “my sunshine” – but it’s a lot sweeter than a cradle falling out of the tree.

These three pieces of music come immediately to mind. But if I hear other songs that evoke memories, I’m sure I could write a thesis on each one.

© 2016 Bonnie-Jean Rohner


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